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John Paul Abernathy

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FINALIST PROFILE

JOHN PAUL ABERNATHY

Age: 26

Occupation: Sous chef

Birthplace: St. Helena, Calif.

Hometown: Seattle, Wash.

I was born in southern California and slowly migrated north over the years, spending the majority of that time in the SF bay area and then going to high school in the Napa valley. It was here that my early passions for food, wine and life began to blossom. I was very fortunate to be exposed to such a mecca of landscape, vineyards, and of course restaurants. I began working in a deli/café as a sophomore in high school, and have pretty much been cooking ever since.

Cooking for ladies became my forte. I quickly discovered that a huge success to my early love life came from being able to wow women with food. This led to a private chef gig in the plentiful region of Brittany, France. It was here that I discovered what food culture really was. How an entire summer for the family on vacation at their beach château was devoted purely to eating, drinking, entertaining, and just loving life. I was hooked into food. Being able to shop for the finest fresh produce France (and maybe the world) had to offer was an ethereal experience. At this point I still wasn't sure if I was going to make this my life work.

Next stop on the culinary map was a tiny hotel in the mountainous region of Grindelwald, Switzerland. Fortunate to get a job working in exchange for room and board, I was immersed into a strict method of traditional French/German cuisine. Besides having a slight language barrier, I had never been in a real professional kitchen like this before. My eyes glowed as I helped to roast heaping piles of veal bones for stock and drip liquid dough into boiling water for spatzel. It was after I was ordered to kill a live trout for 'trout a la bleu' that I knew this was the coolest thing I have ever been a part of.

Upon returning home I quickly enrolled in a one week cooking seminar for youth at the CIA-Greystone. Through this taste of cooking at that level, I enrolled in the two year program in NY. They even gave me a scholarship, I think because of my early experience and positive attitude, but it could have been for something else. Being in school was just fun. I learned a good bit, although not as much as I have with true chefs in the vast industry.

Hungry to learn more after graduation, I found myself back in St. Helena working for Hiro Sone, of Terra. It was here that I honed my line cooking through discipline, repetition, and persistence. Many nights were spent right next to and under the mighty wing of Hiro, trying my hardest to keep up with that amazing man. In my two years at Terra, I believe I learned as much or more about food, culture, and chef mastery than from the CIA.

Since then I have had various odd jobs, like working in Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, to learn more about fish. I am currently working at a large-scale wine bar/restaurant/catering facility in Seattle and have just been asked to run our third restaurant upon its opening. It would be the first time in my career going from a sous chef position into a head chef job. I plan, however, to keep traveling around the world, (in between saving enough money to go again) for the love of drinking wine and eating tapas somewhere like the beach of Spain with all those beautiful ladies.