Dining and Dashing
If Chef Cindy Pawlcyn ever slows down, she might just find time to enjoy the sweet smell of success.
On a warm afternoon in June, chef Cindy Pawlcyn, her crew, and hundreds of their best friends celebrated the 25th anniversary of Napa Valley’s iconic Mustards Grill with a fête featuring fresh oysters, grilled meats, live music, and fine wines—some poured by the winemakers themselves in the shade of a flotilla of white market umbrellas. Twenty-five years in one place is quite an accomplishment for the restless Pawlcyn, who seems to launch a new project every 25 minutes, and who’s been so busy this year that she barely had time to attend her own soirée. Only weeks earlier, she was in Minnesota getting married to John Watanabe at the home of her nearly-90-year-old mother, then flying off to New York to cook at a James Beard Award event. Two days after the Mustards celebration, she set sail on a two-week Mediterranean cruise. The honeymoon of course ended up being half romance, half research. “It was quite the adventure,” she reports. “I visited markets in every town. On Corsica, they make delicious salami from donkeys, goats, or wild boars. The people were so sweet and friendly and they love to talk to people about their food.”
A chef since her teenage years, Pawlcyn has written three cookbooks, helped create such Bay Area dining icons as Fog City Diner, Bix, and Tra Vigne, and in addition to Mustards, is the owner of Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Go Fish in St. Helena. And she’s not done yet. “I’d love to open an inexpensive place for breakfast,” she says. She didn’t have time to explain. She was heading out the door for a week of cooking for winemakers in Colorado. “What threw me for a loop was that I’ll be cooking at 9,500 feet,” she mused. “It’ll be interesting to see if my biscuits cook. It’s a new adventure every day!”