Name: Jammir Gray
Job: Executive Chef at Compline
Hometown: Vallejo, CA
Education: University of California, Davis 06’ /Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park 08’
Q: Describe your path to working in the tourism field.
I knew I wanted to be a chef ever since I was in elementary school. I read a magazine article about Chef Jacques Torres and how he was a culinary artist and I thought wow, I like to cook and I’m artistic — I should be a chef! After culinary school, I worked in restaurants in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC before coming back to California. Living and working in Napa has always been a goal of mine, so to finally be here is exciting and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!
Q: What do you like most about working in Napa Valley?
The abundance of and appreciation for fresh local produce. When I was growing up, my parents used to take my sisters and I to the locals' farms and farmers markets on the weekends for our grocery shopping so it was always something that I was used to. Moving back to the North Bay it has been great working directly with all of the local farms and getting to utilize all of the farm-fresh produce from the area again.
Q: How does being a POC impact or inspire your work?
Historically, the restaurant industry has long shunned food that does not fit within the Eurocentric trope and that has never made sense to me. I believe appreciation for and understanding of other cultures starts with food. As a biracial chef that grew up in a diverse city, I feel the responsibility to help facilitate that appreciation and understanding by introducing people to flavor profiles, ingredients and dishes that they may never have had before. And considering how many double takes I get when people realize that the Black and Filipina woman in front of them is the Executive Chef, proves how important representation is! I hope I can serve as an example for any woman or person of color that it is possible to make it to the upper echelons of the restaurant industry, and that they should never stop pursuing their dreams.
Q: Is there anything you'd like visitors to know about the Compline and/or Napa Valley?
If there was anything I would like visitors to know when coming to Compline, it would be to relax! Whether you are coming in with a group of friends with various diets and no direction when it comes to wine, or you want to sit at the bar solo for Bordeaux and the bavette, we have something for everybody.
Q: What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact that with all of the chefs and restaurants our guests can go to, I still regularly get guests that tell me that their meal changed them somehow. That I introduced them to a food that they never had before, that they hated mushrooms but they loved how we do ours, that this was the first time their 7 year old had duck but he loved it and wants to come back. It makes me feel like we are making a difference in our guests lives through food and that is the goal!
Q: What are your goals in the industry?
My career goal is continued culinary education. Whether it be to continually introduce our guests to new ingredients or techniques, or teaching my staff how to be the best chefs they can be so that they can achieve their career goals, I will always want to teach those who are willing and wanting to learn.
Stay tuned to meet more of Napa Valley's diverse tourism business community!
Jammir's favorite thing to do in Napa Valley: Sit in the park at Oxbow Commons or along the Napa River and people watch at sunset. I tend to gravitate to water so that area is great for decompressing. And go wine tasting of course!