A former competitive gymnast, Katianna Hong embraced cooking with a similar discipline and dedication. She worked her way up from the bottom to chef de cuisine at The Restaurant at Meadowood, becoming one of the only women to helm a three-Michelin-starred spot.
During 15-hour shifts, sparks flew between her and John Hong. “When you’re cooking together, there’s a lot of trust that has to happen,” observes Katianna. “If I want someone’s opinion about something, John was always that person—cooking together for us really works.”
Now, after six years of close collaboration, they’re each preparing for new roles: Katianna is tinkering with menu research and development for The Charter Oak, opening in spring 2017, as John steps into her shoes at the Restaurant at Meadowood, mentoring the staff and continuing to push the food forward.
One constant is the garden that the Hongs (and their restaurants) continue to share. It’s become a great source of inspiration and seasonal products such as sunchokes, white asparagus, and salsify. “It’s amazing what they do in the garden—we can just go take a walk through and get a lot of ideas,” says Katianna.
The culinary power couple shares an appreciation not only for the bounty of the Napa Valley but also for its close-knit community. The Hongs have developed all sorts of collaborative relationships, from the local ceramicists who make their plates to the purveyors who supply their cheese and meats. So it’s not unusual for them to run into friends while taking hikes or browsing at farmers markets. “I’ve really become a small-town guy from living here,” jokes John.
The way Katianna describes it, in the case of the Napa Valley, this small-town vibe supports the work of remarkably talented and diverse makers. “To not be creative here would be difficult!”