Mark Peel, the James Beard award-winning chef, describes Tacoma restaurant owner Gordon Naccarato as a chef with an intuitive understanding of food.
“He’s an incredible chef with a marvelous sense of taste, and an incessant curiosity,” said Peel, who worked alongside the Tacoman 30 years ago in the formative years of Naccarato’s career in Los Angeles restaurants.
Peel recalls when Naccarato took his first cooking position at Michael’s, a California restaurant that three decades ago became a launching point for American chefs such as Peel, Nancy Silverton and Jonathan Waxman.
“We needed someone in the kitchen; in the pantry position. Gordon was like, ‘I can do that.’ He took a two-third cut in pay,” said Peel of the sacrifice made when servers leave behind tip-supplemented paychecks.
Naccarato “got really interested in what was going on, how things worked,” said Peel. “He started in the pantry and he very, very quickly went up in the hierarchy. I left and went to Chez Panisse.” Naccarato then took over as lunch and then sous chef. Later Peel and Naccarato would work together at Campanile, Peel’s landmark Los Angeles restaurant that operated from 1989 to 2012.
Today, Tacomans know Naccarato as the owner of Pacific Grill in downtown Tacoma. And now he has added Smoke + Cedar, which opened last week at the Allenmore Golf Course. How Naccarato went from waiting tables to working at the country’s most acclaimed restaurants is a three-decade story that might never have happened if Naccarato had stuck with his original plan to attend law school. Read more »