Our Chefs

Cal Peternell
Restaurant Chef
Cal Peternell grew up on a small farm in New Jersey and graduated with a BFA in painting from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. After graduation, Cal moved to Lucca, Italy, with his wife to pursue their art careers. Upon his return to the United States, he started cooking at Bix in San Francisco. He continued his career at Biba and The Blue Room in Boston, and returned to San Francisco as sous chef at Loretta Keller’s Bizou. Cal joined Chez Panisse in 1995 and has been chef since 2000.
Amy Dencler
Restaurant Chef
Amy Dencler was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and worked as a cook in restaurants in Pittsburgh and New York and at The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia. Impressed with the produce from California that she saw in East Coast restaurants, she drove across the country to get closer to the source. After working at Oliveto with Paul Bertolli and Mike Tusk, Amy was hired by Peggy Smith and Gilbert Pilgram to cook in the café at Chez Panisse, in 1996. In 2000, she moved to the restaurant kitchen, where she has worked with many other notable chefs, including Jean-Pierre Moullé, Christopher Lee, Kelsie Kerr, and David Tanis. When she is not at Chez Panisse, she enjoys gardening and helping in the vineyards and the winery at her boyfriend’s place, Sky Vineyards.
Nathan Alderson
Café Chef
Nathan Alderson was born and raised in a farming community in Henderson County, Kentucky. He has received degrees in biology and music from Vanderbilt University. In 2001 he moved to California to pursue a career in cooking and started as an intern in the Chez Panisse kitchen in 2001. He has been sous chef in the Cafe since 2008. When Nathan is not cooking at Chez Panisse, he is cooking at home with friends and family.
Beth Wells
Café Chef
Beth Wells grew up in Friendswood, Texas, a Quaker town near Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Beth moved to San Francisco. Upon graduation from culinary school, she started as a volunteer in the Chez Panisse kitchen. She moved quickly through the ranks, becoming sous chef, and in 2008, chef of Chez Panisse Café.
Mary Jo Thoresen
Pastry Chef
Mary Jo Thoresen began her cooking career at Chez Panisse in 1981 as an intern. Under the tutelage of Chez Panisse’s founding pastry chef Lindsey Shere, she continued her work at Chez Panisse for the next 12 years, eventually becoming pastry sous chef. In 1993 she left to open Café Amici with her husband Curt Clingman on the campus of the California College of Arts & Crafts. In 1999, they opened the much-loved neighborhood bistro Jojo in Oakland, which the two ran for nearly a decade. In 2008, she returned part-time to Chez Panisse, and has been pastry chef of both café and restaurant since 2013.
Carrie Lewis
Pastry Chef
Carrie Lewis was born in the small coastal town of Reedsport, Oregon. As a young girl, she moved with her family to Palatka, Florida. She studied at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish. During her college years, Carrie studied in Italy and worked at a French bakery, where she discovered her passion for pastry. This interest eventually led her to culinary school in San Francisco. Carrie earned an entry-level position in the pastry department at Chez Panisse in 2007; she was promoted to pastry sous-chef in 2010 and to pastry chef in 2013.