Top Women Chefs Hit the Stage at the Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience

Professional chefs have long skewed male — according to stats from the U.S. Census Bureau, just 24 percent of U.S. chefs and head cooks were female in 2019, although culturally, they’re the heart of the kitchen at home. As we’re celebrating powerful women in this issue, we think it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce some of the superstar female chefs headlining the first-ever Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience. Here’s a “taste” of what they’re passionate about.

Duskie Estes 

duskie estes

Co-owner (with husband John Stewart), Black Pig Meat Co.; executive director, Farm to Pantry, Healdsburg

Marin Magazine (MM): What inspired you to become a chef?

Duskie Estes (DE): I fell in love with making people happy through food when I was 5 years old baking my grandfather’s birthday cake in my Easy Bake Oven. Growing up in San Francisco, I saw my father at weekly dinners at restaurants. I fell in love with all things restaurant. I attended Brown University and worked in restaurants along the way. I was heading to law school when I was offered an executive chef position working for Tom Douglas in Seattle and took the job. 

MM: What’s your signature dish?

DE: A signature dish is tough for me because I’m so tied to what I’m growing out back, and it changes all the time. I would say we are most known for our BLT because we make incredible bacon from pasture-raised pigs, and then source the best tomatoes and bread to go along. 

MM: When it comes to ingredients, what is one thing you’re passionate about? 

DE: I’m most passionate about knowing the face that feeds you and ethical sourcing. Your power is in how you choose to spend your dollar. I support small farmers and ranchers raising animals on pasture. If I get the best ingredients, I don’t have to do much to make it taste good. I consider myself a shepherd of ingredients from farm to table.

MM: What was your favorite meal growing up? 

DE: My favorite dish to prepare growing up was carbonara. We still make it all the time, but now with bacon my husband, John, made.

MM: What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

DE: The most rewarding part of Black Pig Meat Co. and our food truck The Black Piglet is working with my husband and all the growers and makers we get to support, and making people happy with our food. The most rewarding part of Farm to Pantry is being feeling like I’m making a difference every day. I get to feed people gorgeous, good food and make it accessible for all. I get to build community with all the gleaners and growers who care to fix what is broken. I get to be outside in Sonoma County harvesting for good. 

Crista Leudtke

crista luedtke

Chef/owner, Boon Eat + Drink and Brot Modern German, Guernville

MM: What inspired you to become a chef?

Crista Leudtke (CL): Growing up in restaurants from birth I just knew it was my calling. I love to connect with people through food. 

MM: What’s your signature dish?

CL: It’s probably the Boon Brussels sprouts — spicy, tangy, crispy!

MM: When it comes to ingredients, what is one thing you’re passionate about? 

CL: Local, seasonal produce. But if I had to pick one thing, I’d say arugula — it’s even tattooed on me!

MM: What was your favorite meal growing up? 

CL: My grandma’s pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy.

MM: What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

CL: Absolutely, it’s the people I work with; without my team I’m nothing!

Domenica Catelli 

domenica catelli

Owner and operator, Catelli’s, Geyserville

MM: What inspired you to become a chef?

Domenica Catelli (DC): I grew up in my family’s restaurant in Sonoma County that was started in 1936 by my Italian immigrant grandparents. I cooked my first dinner party at age 9 and continued to be the “chef” to my friends throughout school. I was made head chef at age 19 at a restaurant in Laguna Beach I had been working in. When my daughter, Chiara, was born in 1995 I created the menu and was executive chef for the award-winning Stanford Inn in Mendocino. I left restaurants for a number of years to focus on parenting, but I always remained in the food industry. I had the opportunity to be a food stylist on The Oprah Winfrey Show and cook for her for a number of years. I went on to be a cookbook author and regular contributor on the morning news in Houston. I returned to Sonoma County in 2010 to reopen our family restaurant with my brother Nicholas in Geyserville with my twist on the original Catelli’s the Rex recipes. 

MM: What’s your signature dish?

DC: My signature dish would either be the kale salad (it’s been a favorite for the past 11 years, even for those who don’t like kale) or my 10-layer lasagna — 10 paper-thin layers of handmade pasta layered with local cheeses, herbs and my organic tomato sauce.

MM: When it comes to ingredients, what’s one thing you’re passionate about?

DC: I’m passionate about local, seasonal and organic vegetables! I say that they “whisper to me, and sometimes even shout.” When I’m at the farmers market, our garden or the store I get the best ideas in that moment when I come into contact with the bounty of ingredients.

MM: What was your favorite meal growing up? 

DC: My favorite meals and dishes growing up were whatever new or interesting restaurant we got to go out to. I would go with my grandmother or father to pick up supplies in San Francisco and loved our meals in Chinatown or getting strawberry-rhubarb pie in Marin on the way home. My mom is also a fantastic cook and loved trying out foods from all over the world, whether she was making them or taking me to John Ash when they first opened in Montgomery Village when I was 10 years old, or eating at Auberge du Soleil when they first opened and had one of the best pasta dishes in my life made by chef Masa Kobayashi when I was 11.  

MM: What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

DC: Using my skills and passion to help feed first responders and evacuees during the fires and floods in our area and beyond is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Also, creating dishes that are delicious and nutritious that inspire people to eat things that they didn’t know or think they like is very fulfilling. The most challenging part of my job has been staffing. It was that way pre-Covid-19 for certain positions then has stayed the same since then. I’m hopeful that tide is turning though!


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Lotus Abrams

Lotus Abrams has covered everything from beauty to business to tech in her editorial career, but it might be writing about her native Bay Area that inspires her most. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Peninsula, where they enjoy spending time outdoors at the area’s many open spaces protected and preserved by her favorite local nonprofit, the Peninsula Open Space Trust.