Thank you to this years' Chef Chair Melissa Perello (Executive Chef/Owner, Octavia and Frances)
Chef Melissa Perello has been an avid cook since childhood. Spending summers in the kitchen with her grandmother, Frances, in Northern Texas, the young chef was influenced by culinary titans like Julia Child and Nathalie Dupree. Following her passion by working in a kitchen at a local country club during high school, she later attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
Upon graduation, Chef Perello moved across the country to San Francisco to begin working at Aqua, where Michael Mina was both a teacher and an important influence on the rising star chef. After her time at Aqua, Perello moved to Charles Nob Hill, working alongside Ron Siegel. Shortly after, Chef Perello ascended to the position of Executive Chef. Under her culinary leadership and guidance, she helped garner critical acclaim from local and national outlets, and was named one of San Francisco Chronicle’s Rising Star Chefs in 2002. She also earned three consecutive James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef nominations from 2002-2004, and was lauded as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2004.
Crediting Siegel as another defining influence, his teachings inspired the young chef to cultivate long-lasting relationships with purveyors and farmers, giving her access to the finest locally produced ingredients – a practice that would become a staple of her culinary style. “Ron taught me how to create relationships with purveyors and make ingredients shine,” explains Chef Perello.
In 2005 Perello took the helm at the highly respected Fifth Floor restaurant located in downtown San Francisco. The Fifth Floor already had a reputation as one of the country’s top restaurants, however, with Chef Perello’s arrival and talent, she managed to improve upon that reputation, winning the restaurant a coveted Michelin star in 2006.
Chef Perello then took a hiatus from the San Francisco restaurant industry. She took this time to travel and refocus on food, with the ultimate goal of opening a restaurant and making a mark on San Francisco that was completely her own. And in 2009, Frances was born, named for the grandmother who had nurtured her young talents. It was no surprise Frances quickly gained effusive praise and glowing reviews, both nationally and locally, from such institutions as the James Beard Foundation, Bon Appétit magazine, Esquire magazine, as well as earning a Michelin star.