CHRIS KENNEDY AKEN
A native of Southern California, Chris Kennedy Aken is a long-time chef and restaurateur who has found a home as winery chef for Trefethen Family Vineyards. With more than two decades of cooking and innovating in the diverse Napa Valley, Chicago, and San Francisco dining scenes; Kennedy brings a wealth of knowledge, creativity and a lifelong passion for hospitality and creating unique experiences to the family. As the winery chef, Kennedy is instrumental in crafting those locavore sensibilities that distinguishes this winery and chef from others.
Fueled by a deeply rooted desire to create transparent and transcendent cuisine, Aken’s career began in Oklahoma City in 1995, where his culinary mentor Chef Kurt Fleischfresser taught him the intricate and detailed fundamentals of classic French cuisine. In 1998, Kennedy moved to San Francisco where he held the title Chef Tournat at La Folie for two years before moving to the Windy City in 2000 – a decision he describes as eye-opening. Aken served as a sous chef at Red Light, a pan-Asian restaurant, and as executive sous chef at Rhapsody, a high-end restaurant in the famed Chicago Symphony Center. During his time in Chicago, Aken made careful observations of innovative chefs who dedicated their careers to “pushing the envelope,” personally inspiring Aken to do the same.
In 2002, Aken relocated to Napa Valley, a place he has since proudly called home. He started as the chef de cuisine at Catahoula Restaurant & Saloon, but quickly positioned himself as the executive chef and partner at Stomp Restaurant, Cafe & Bar, handling all ownership responsibilities. His duties included research and development, catering, event management, scheduling and costs for both front-of-house and back-of-house, with a special focus on local ingredients and vendor relationships. In 2009, he became the executive chef and beverage director at AVIA Hotel in Napa and in 2016, he joined the Culinary Institute of American as the opening chef de cuisine for the Restaurant at Copia.
During that time, in 2007, Aken realized a lifelong dream and opened a boutique catering company, Toast Catering, with his wife, Kathleen. He has spent over ten years developing, running, and expanding his company, while traveling locally and internationally to research the perfect marriage of food and wine.