Joanne Weir is a bona-fide celebrity chef, having recently completed 39 episodes for her PBS cooking series, “Joanne Weir’s Cooking Confidence”, where she turns her home kitchen into the classroom as she works side-by-side with a real-world student for a hands-on cooking lesson. This series currently airs nationwide and it marks Joanne’s seventh season on PBS.
Prior to launching her publishing, television and teaching career, from 1985 to 1990, Joanne worked at Chez Panisse, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the United States. Joanne’s first book, From Tapas to Meze (Crown, 1994) was selected by Julia Child as one of her 12 personal favorites out of 1000 cookbooks published that year. Her talents were then showcased in the PBS series “Weir Cooking in the Wine Country”, shot on location in the Napa Valley. The companion book, “Weir’s More Cooking in the Wine Country” (Simon & Schuster, 2001) went on to garner a James Beard Award nomination and an IACP Cookbook Award nomination.
Joanne’s adopted hometown of San Francisco was the culinary setting for “Weir Cooking in the City”, her 26-part PBS series and companion book (Simon & Schuster, 2004) for which she received a James Beard Award for Best Cookbook. A completely revised version of From Tapas to Meze (Ten Speed Press, 2004) won the 2004 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Mediterranean Cookbook.
Joanne’s cookbook, Wine Country Cooking (Ten Speed Press, 2008) is the companion book to the most recent season of “Joanne Weir’s Cooking Class”. Joanne’s most recent book is an exciting all-in-one reference guide, TEQUILA: A Guide to Types, Flights, Cocktails and Bites (Ten Speed Press, 2009). This book will be a significant resource for Copita. You can purchase your own copy and Joanne will be glad to sign it for you when you visit Copita. For more information regarding Joanne, please visit: http://www.joanneweir.com/index.php
Larry Mindel has been at the forefront of the dining industry for over 40 years. Deeply influenced by the culinary traditions of Italy, his trailblazing restaurants influenced California’s dining zeitgeist. He began his career by selling instant coffee to local retail merchants in the Ann Arbor area while a student at the University of Michigan. He branded it “University Hall.”
Larry’s career took root in San Francisco with his purchase of venerable Caswell Coffee Company (founded, 1829) for 1 million dollars in 1963. He was 26 years old and had $36.00 in the bank. Emboldened by youthful naiveté, he overestimated his power of negotiating! Unable to bring the price down, he raised the money they requested, primarily from a local bank. With passion and hard work, Caswell doubled in size for 3 years. In the 4th year, he took a leap of faith and made a 15 million dollar commitment to become the exclusive buyer of Kona coffee from Hawaii. They locked in a set price and branded it as a premium product, “Kona Coffee”. Subsequently, Caswell’s success attracted a bidding war between larger Midwestern coffee companies anxious to gain a foothold in the rapidly growing West Coast market.
Following the sale of Caswell, Larry co-founded Spectrum Foods with the purchase of Chianti restaurant in Los Angeles. He and his business partner transformed Chianti from a failing trattoria into a restaurant with the most coveted seats in Los Angeles. Under Larry's direction, Spectrum created 14 trend setting restaurants in California. These included Ciao, with one of the nation’s first exhibition pasta-making stations, and Prego featuring a wood-fired pizza oven in the dining room. Both innovations were the result of spatial problem solving. In 1984, Saga Corporation acquired Spectrum Foods and Larry served as President of the Saga Restaurant Group, overseeing more than 200 restaurants generating a combined $375 million in annual revenue.
Upon the merger of Saga with Marriott in 1986, Larry departed and acquired Il Fornaio, negotiating the deal on the back of a napkin. At that time they were a collection of six money-losing small Italian bakeries in California. Under his direction, Il Fornaio reorganized every aspect of the operation into a bakery-backed restaurant and within ten months the first Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana e Panetteria opened in Corte Madera, California to overwhelming public and critical acclaim. By 2008 Il Fornaio operated twenty-two restaurants with annual revenues of $145 million.
Larry was the first American and the first person of non-Italian descent to be awarded the Caterina de Medici Medal from the Italian government, recognizing excellence in the preservation of Italian heritage outside of Italy. He opened Poggio Trattoria in 2003 near his home in Sausalito as the ultimate experession of his passion for Italy. For the past decade it has been a highly acclaimed, three-starred top-ranked San Francisco Bay area restaurant. In 2012, as the result of a contested margarita making competition between Larry and Joanne Weir, they co-founded Copita Tequileria y Comida together.
Chef Gonzalo Rivera brings a rich culinary background and spirit with him, ranging from his grandmother’s kitchen to working with Michael Mina as he grew his empire and where he learned Mexican cooking. Born and raised in Gridley, California, he grew up with his parents and grandmother, all from Southern Mexico.
Beginning at the age of four, he traveled north through California, up through Oregon and Washington to harvest for the seasons’ ingredients. Later, Gonzalo moved to San Francisco to attend culinary school and take on an externship with Michael Mina. From 2003 – 2009, Rivera held the position of Executive Chef for Mina Group, working at Mina restaurants that range from Michael Mina Restaurant at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco for three years to then Nemi Restaurant in Mexico City for two years, which was named “Top 23 restaurants in Mexico” from Travel + Leisure. Prior to that, Gonzalo was Sous Chef at Michael Mina Las Vegas, Bellagio Casino and Hotel, as well as Sous Chef at Aqua Restaurant and Pisces Restaurant in San Francisco.
Most recently, Gonzalo was Executive Chef at Capella, a luxury resort in Ixtapa, Mexico that garnered #1 boutique hotel in the Pacific with a food score of 97.2 by Conde Nast Traveler. At Capella, Gonzalo made a return to Mexican flavors and was able to develop a menu close to his cultural heritage. During his time in Mexico, Gonzalo met his wife who is from Morelia Michoacán, Mexico and they spent over five years there before moving back to the Bay Area.
Cassie Corless brings over a decade of hospitality experience and passion for Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine to Copita Tequileria y Comida as General Manager. Driven by a fascination with people, Cassie pursued a degree in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Arizona and began her foray into hospitality at Skyline Country Club, where she served as Membership Director for five years. Eager to expand her horizons, she headed east to New York City to manage the bar program at Vamos Restaurant, but found herself longing to be closer to her family in the Bay Area.
Cassie initially joined the Copita team as a server and bartender, but sought a more managerial role and oversaw the staff training program in addition to crafting new cocktails. After serving as General Manager for Tacolicious in San Francisco, where she collaborated with the chef about menu items along with overseeing the daily operations of the restaurant, Cassie headed back across the bridge to manage Poggio Trattoria, Sausalito’s famed Italian restaurant. There, she helmed the restaurant’s cocktail program and managed staffing, scheduling and inventory while getting to know the neighbors.
Now as General Manager of Copita, Cassie oversees the daily operations of the restaurant, ensuring both locals and visitors enjoy the best of Sausalito. She attributes her affinity for Mexican food to her Southern California roots and can be found outside the restaurant spending time with her nieces and gallivanting around San Francisco in search of good food and drink.
Amy has been a successful restaurateur on two continents and in some of the most competitive restaurant cities here in the United States, including Chicago, San Francisco and currently in Sausalito as Managing Partner of Poggio.
Amy has broad experience leading high-volume restaurants for the Kimpton Group (at Mossant Bistro, Atwood Café, both in Chicago) and at Grand Café in San Francisco. For the past five years at Poggio, Amy has directed all front-of-the-house operations for this highly regarded restaurant. Amy will oversee the front-of-the-house and day-to-day operations of Copita.