About Penni

penni wisnerAfter thirty years in the food and wine business, what continues to inspire and fascinate me is the simple act of turning the amazing ingredients we have here in the Bay Area into great-tasting meals.
And almost as much as I like to cook, I like to encourage others to do the same. It is incredibly rewarding to work with a client whose favorite kitchen tool might be a pair of scissors for opening packages of prepared food. And then watching as she turns into someone who tries recipes on her own and has friends over for a meal she’s cooked herself.
So many of us are confused and maybe a little intimidated by the whole idea of food and what preparing it entails. Perhaps you feel as I do when I walk into Amoeba Records in San Francisco. Overwhelmed. Too many choices; where to begin? That’s why I started kitchen coaching: to help people feel at home in their own kitchens whether it’s so they can bake their grandson’s birthday cake, cook with and for a new lover, or learn to cook healthy and delicious meals for themselves and their families—with leftovers to take for lunch.
My years editing House & Garden’s Wine & Food Section, working grape harvests for wineries in Australia, California, and France, and writing cookbooks for professional chefs have all given me an unusual depth of knowledge about the making, serving, and appreciation of good food and wine. In addition, events in my personal life taught me that food can be far more than entertainment. It is the current that flows through and supports my life. A partner with young children has taught me about cooking on a daily basis and the joy of being around the table together. I rediscovered the pleasures of “grandmother cooking”–long-simmered soups, light and gently sweetened custards–after a bout with a life-threatening illness. And I learned more perhaps than I wanted to know about my relationship to food when I decided to lose weight. Preparing delicious and healthy meals became central to that effort.

I joined House & Garden in 1972 and was named Editor of the Wine & Food section in 1978. As editor, I was responsible for developing the articles, and then personally photostyling and writing many of them. Under my direction, the section grew in size and stature among consumers and professionals. It became well-known for its practical, yet inspirational cooking and entertaining ideas.
During those years, I traveled frequently to California and its wine regions. And knew I wanted to be part of this exciting, new industry. So, during 1981-1982, I traveled literally around the world to learn more about viticulture first-hand as what we call a “cellar rat.” I worked the harvest of 1981 for Iron Horse, a super-premium Sonoma producer of still and sparkling wines. Several months later, I worked the vintage of 1982 in Australia for Brian Croser at Petaluma and visited the major wine regions of that country. By the fall of 1982, Iwas working the harvest in Burgundy, touring and tasting in Alsace, Bordeaux, Champagne, and the Rhone. A stint catering the Friday wine tastings at Stephen Spurrier’s Academie du Vin in Paris helped me become intimate with Parisian butcher shops, markets, pain de Poilaine, and affineurs (cheese shops that buy and age cheeses).
Returning to the United States, I sold wine in one of Manhattan’s top wine shops before joining Simi Winery in Sonoma County as Vice President/Public Relations in 1984. I wrote the widely-respected quarterly newsletter, Simi News, and traveled extensively to represent the winery before consumer and trade groups.
In 1988, I became the Public Relations Director of The Seagram Classics Wine Company to direct internal and external corporate programs, as well as the publicity for several brands in the company portfolio. I broadened my consumer products experience as the Public Relations Director of San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma, Inc., the well-known cataloguer and retailer.
As a writer and industry consultant since 1993, I have authored cookbooks and worked with clients such as Kuhn Rikon, the Swiss manufacturer of premium cookware and kitchen tools; Laura Chenel’s Chevre, the premium goat cheese producer in Sonoma County; and San Francisco’s Center for Culinary Development. Because my early professional training gave me a particular interest in consumer education, I developed educational programs and authored consumer brochures with the Sonoma County Wineries Association.
My cookbooks include three for Michael Chiarello, all published by Chronicle Books: Flavored Oils, 50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Oils (1995), Flavored Vinegars, 50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Vinegar (1996), and The Tra Vigne Cookbook, Seasons in the California Wine Country (1999). Summer Cocktails, written under my own name and first published for Williams-Sonoma in 1998, was published by Chronicle Books in 1999. In addition, I have written books for other San Francisco chefs including La Parilla for Reed Hearon (Chronicle Books, 1996), The Basque Kitchen for Gerald and Cameron Hirigoyen (Harper/Collins, 1999),  Modern Asian Flavors: A Taste of Shanghai for Richard Wong (Chronicle, 2006), and two books for Hubert Keller: Burger Bar, Build Your Own Ultimate Burger (John Wiley & Sons, 2009) and Souvenirs, Stories and Recipes from My Life (Andrews McMeel, Fall, 2012).


I made the couscous salad for my family and they loved it! It was very gratifying for me. I realize one of the reasons I like that recipe is that it’s basic with room to adapt, ie use other vegetables, etc. So I get to be creative.

-Suzanne Harris

About Penni

Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
'The Basque Kitchen' for Gerald Hirigoyen
and 'BurgerBar' for Hubert Keller.

Contact Penni Wisner