PILAR SANCHEZ


With a background consisting of a combination of cultures--California roots, Spanish and Mexican bloodlines and her time living in France--Pilar Sanchez brings a rich perspective to her cuisine and to Food Network's Melting Pot.

A native Californian, Pilar held positions at the Four Seasons Clift Hotel and Ernie's in San Francisco and at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara. She also lived in Paris, where she and her husband, Didier Lenders, had opened the overnight success Café del Sol. For two years, the restaurant brought accolades from Parisian restaurant reviewers.

Pilar began her culinary career just out of high school, when she ventured to France to cook for field workers at a vineyard in the Bordeaux region. "We harvested everything ourselves and cooked straight from the garden. We milked the cows, made our own breads, and made sausages and hams from the pigs we raised," Pilar says. "It taught me to respect the honesty of flavors."

Pilar brought her skills to The Restaurant at Meadowood in July 1997, where the menu reflected the local bounty and the changing of the seasons in California's wine country. In 1998, the Napa Valley Vintners Association approached her to be the 1998 Napa Valley Wine Auction Grand Master Chef. Pilar jumped at the role, which involved sourcing ingredients and creating a dinner for no fewer than 2,000 guests. She was then honored in November 1998 as the only American and only female chef invited to cook at the Annual Houston Grand Opera Wine Classic.

Pilar launched 1999 with an appearance in The Best Hotel Chefs in America series at the James Beard House in January. And as one of the hosts of Food Network's Melting Pot, it looks as if she's well on her way.

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