A museum honoring Charles E. "Chuck" Williams—the man who reshaped the way America cooks and the visionary behind Williams-Sonoma—will be the centerpiece of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia. Made possible by a generous gift from the Williams Estate, the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum at the CIA at Copia will become a new attraction in the City of Napa. The founder of Williams-Sonoma passed away on December 5 following his 100th birthday earlier in the year. The extensive display of kitchen items collected within his lifetime will honor his legacy.
"Chuck Williams introduced the culinary tools and equipment that were essential in transforming the art of cooking, eating, and entertaining in the American home," says CIA President Dr. Tim Ryan. "We are delighted that this unique and wide-ranging collection will be on permanent display to the community at the CIA at Copia."
The story began in 1952, when Williams took a three-month trip to Europe and Scandinavia with friends and saw what international cooks were using in their home kitchens. He loved collecting, and returned to Europe numerous times, scouring shops, restaurants, and factories for high-quality cookware and specialty foods he could introduce to cooks in the U.S. In 1956, he opened his first cookware store in Sonoma, which moved to San Francisco in 1958 at the urging of friends. Many of those items would become American kitchen classics, such as enameled cast-iron pots, Mauviel Copper Cookware, Apilco and Pillivuyt porcelains, tart tins, kugelhopfs, crêpe pans, the Cuisinart food processor, and balsamic vinegar.
"Students, culinary historians, researchers, and the general public will be able to use the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum to advance both their knowledge of the history of kitchen tools and equipment and their appreciation for food and cooking," explains Wade Bentson, who serves as the director of the Williams Estate and museum curator. "Chuck always placed a great deal of emphasis on education, and he was thrilled to know that future generations of CIA students and visitors to the CIA at Copia will benefit from this gift."
The collection represents a rich heritage of the culinary arts from around the world and includes treasures from the 18th and 19th century—a batterie de cuisine of copper cookware from 1890s France; ceramic and metal pudding, chocolate, and ice cream molds; and European and early American baking and pastry equipment from the early 1900s. Among the nearly 4,000 artifacts are bread baking and culinary tools, specialty cookware, tableware, large and small appliances, and cookbooks. Additional items will be curated for temporary exhibits.
"We are pleased to learn that this personal gift from our founder Chuck Williams will establish a museum dedicated to his life's work at the CIA at Copia," says Janet Hayes, president of the Williams-Sonoma brand. "We believe that this museum, together with the 2014 re-opening of Chuck's original store in Sonoma, will allow Chuck's passion for creating a culinary community to thrive and inspire visitors to the region and future generations, just as he inspired us."
In recognition of his contribution to the culinary arts, Chuck Williams was inducted into The Culinary Institute of America's Hall of Fame in 2002. Through the years he has helped launch the careers of many young culinarians through CIA scholarships, and his generosity created the Williams Center for Flavor Discovery at the college's Greystone campus in St. Helena, California.
The Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum at The Culinary Institute of America at Copia is expected to open in spring 2017.