Amy Dencler

Co-chef of Chez Panisse


"Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Dencler attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After graduation, she worked at various restaurants on the East Coast, including the Old Drovers Inn in upstate New York.

Each winter, Dencler would be “blown away” by the California-grown produce that she would see coming into the restaurant kitchens where she worked.

“I kept fantasizing about California,” says Dencler.

In 1995, she left her job in New York and drove across the country to California.

While she was on the road, she heard about a position opening up at Chez Panisse, but by the time she landed in Northern California, it had been filled (by Peternell). So instead, she took a job at Oakland’s Oliveto — working under then chef Paul Bertolli — and eventually became sous chef.

All the while she kept her eyes and ears open, hoping for a highly-coveted and hard-to-come-by position to open up at Chez Panisse. (It helped that during that time Dencler had found a place to live with the late Catherine Brandel, who was one of the downstairs chefs at the time.)

In 1996, a job did become available in the upstairs’ cafe on the grilling station, which she worked for four-and-a-half years. In 2000, she moved downstairs to the restaurant itself. While she left for a couple of years to try her hand at being a private chef, David Tanis asked her to return to fill a downstairs cook position. Dencler’s been in the kitchen ever since and for the past four years has been in charge of the restaurant’s Monday night menu.

About a month after Waag had announced he would be leaving, Dencler had a meeting with owner Alice Waters, who offered her the position of co-chef. It was a job she was delighted to take, especially considering how infrequently it becomes available.

“I’m happy to have that happen where I feel so much at home,” says Dencler

Over the years, in both the cafe and restaurant, Dencler has worked with a veritable who’s-who in the food world, including Jean-Pierre Moulle, Peggy Smith, Michael Tusk, Russell Moore and Gilbert Pilgram. Now it’s time to add her name to the list and take her own turn in the spotlight." (1)

From SF Gate