Central Coast Wine Classic Featured Chefs

2016 Central Coast Wine Classic featured chefs will be posted here as details are confirmed.

James Siao

James Siao

James Siao is the executive chef of Finch & Fork restaurant at Kimpton’s Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara, California. He is responsible for the menus at Fork & Finch, as well as the banquet and in-room menus for the Canary Hotel and oversees the entire kitchen staff.

In 2012, Siao became the executive chef of Coast restaurant in Santa Barbara, and Coast subsequently evolved to became Finch & Fork in 2013. As the executive chef, Siao has created a modern American bar and grill, creating a menu that features shareable plates such as the flatbreads, salt & pepper chicken wings and house deviled eggs, as well as larger soul satisfying plates such as his popular buttermilk fried chicken, Skuna Bay salmon, and seared sea scallops. Siao’s food is meant to be enjoyed with artisanal wines, craft cocktails, and great beers.

Siao grew up in Ohio, being surrounded by great food in his father’s Chinese restaurant. He learned a great deal about how food can bring people together, but also about the restaurant business. He started working his way up-- working at the restaurant as a teenager, bussing tables and washing dishes. These roles helped him understand just how hard the business is. From there, he worked his way up, serving, prepping and even cooking on the line.

From there, Siao decided he wanted to become an executive chef. He attended culinary school in Pittsburgh while working on the side at a local country club. An internship during school took him to Arizona where he worked at the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch. After completing his internship, he stayed on and continued working at the resort to further his understanding and experience.

Siao decided it was time to go back to Ohio, and worked in a number of smaller local family restaurants before landing his first sous chef position in 2001. He was promoted to executive chef of that same family restaurant in 2002, and managed the kitchen for more than four years.

In 2006, Siao returned to Arizona to work with the Marriot Renaissance in Scottsdale as the executive sous chef. He worked a second job at Taggia Restaurant at the local Kimpton Firesky Resort, and worked both jobs until he had the opportunity to become the sous chef at Taggia.

Siao became the chef de cuisine at Taggia in 2008, and worked there for a total of just over six years. In 2009, he had the opportunity to help a friend open a restaurant in Italy. He jumped at the opportunity, and spent the next three months living and working in Italy. The time he spent in Italy helped him learn even more about how food and culture intertwine, and once again, how food brings people together. He had a greater appreciation for interacting with the guest, and learned how to make each dining experience even better than the last.

He returned to Taggia in 2010 and focused on all of the things he had learned—bringing an even better guest experience to his clientele, and drawing from the influences and lessons he had learned in Italy. He headed to Santa Barbara shortly after in 2012.

In his free time, James likes to participate in local charitable events, such as Share Our Strength’s Chef Cycle and Taste of the Nation. He’s also enjoys a good road trip, and is often heading up or down the coast to Los Angeles or San Francisco to check out the food scene.