executive chef

Traci Matsunaga

My name is Traci Matsunaga and I’m a chef/general manager.

I live in Garden Valley, California.

My favorite thing about being a chef is getting to do what I love - using my hands, soul, and history to bring joy to people.

The biggest food tip I can give is to TRY EVERYTHING! Food memory is powerful. For instance, I try to balance a lot of dishes with an acid prior to adding salt. The grey cells think of what would work with the particular ingredient and then I adjust in small increments. Think roasted red bell pepper soup - I taste it, it needs a little "pop;” think, think, think ...add a splash of sherry or sherry vinegar. 

Rigatoni is my favorite pasta, I just love saying it!

If I could only have one dessert for the rest of my life, I’d choose the macarons from Ginger Elizabeth in Sacramento, California. They are all that, and more. The perfect crunch of the cookie and ratio of filling: cookie is spot on. Sorry, I'm drooling now. The perfect crunch and the cookie-to-filling ratio is spot on. 

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My guilty pleasure is licking the bowl, spoon, attachments, etc. from angel food cake batter.

At the moment, my favorite ingredient is freshly ground black pepper.

As a chef, I can’t live without a sharp chef's knife.

When I’m not cooking, I’m eating, playing and walking the dog, doing fermenting projects, cooking experiments, hiking, gardening (but I have a black thumb), helping make wine, and reading.

Being selected to attend a conference at CIA Copia has been the highlight of my career so far.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a clothing buyer, I even toured at FIDM in San Francisco, which is hysterical now because I cannot stand to shop or buy clothes other than chef pants and coats.

My first food memory is of mashed potatoes -- a memory from preschool. It even made its way into my essay to culinary school.