Happy 100th Birthday, Chuck Williams!

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Merchant of Sonoma - Chuck Williams Pioneer of the American Kitchen

A Very Special Birthday Celebration:
For “The Merchant of Sonoma”

Happy 100th Birthday, Chuck!

There’s gonna be a party all over the world! Plus, I made you Cherry Clafoutis for dessert. Let’s celebrate!

The first time I learned that Chuck Williams would be celebrating his 100th birthday on October 2nd this year, it was last October when I placed a call to the Pottery Barn catalog for an irresistible set of pumpkin glassware. I just had to have a set! You know, for some Fall Sangria or apple cider.

If you do not know me well yet, I adore everything cherries which equals my affection for pumpkin everything—right down to Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. But, I digress. In his caring and generous spirit, The Big Lug gifted me a gift card to purchase some kitchen items and props to lift my spirits and inspire while I was away from the blog last year due to illness.

Pumpkin Glassware Set of 4 by Pottery BarnPumpkin Glassware Set of 4, by Pottery Barn.

As it happened, my enthusiasm and desire for these special pumpkin glasses (that I had been inquiring about since August of that year), and being a loyal Williams-Sonoma customer, caught the attention of the very kind and professional sales associate I was speaking with. After we both shared a chuckle over my ardent hunt for these elusive glasses, and although she could not find the item in the PB catalog system through her extensive search despite the item being pictured in the print catalog (they were most likely already sold out), she buffered my disappointment by sharing with me that company-wide they had just celebrated Chuck’s 99th birthday and how much fun everyone had. Wasn’t that thoughtful of her to share? I thought so.

Right away, I noted his October 2nd birthday and tattooed it to my brain to mark the occasion here on my blog with a special dessert recipe—one that would be sophisticated yet simple and full of fresh flavors deeply appreciated by Chuck while also reflecting the style of entertaining he champions most, small intimate gatherings that are not overly fussy.

Michigan Cherries - Montmorency Balaton and Ulster Varieties

Fresh picked Montmorency, Balaton and Ulster cherries from King Orchards in Northern Michigan, north of Traverse City—the Cherry Capitol of the World.

Immediately, I thought of cherries. Who doesn’t adore those little red and purple orbs of tart and sweet juicy goodness? Then, I set out to develop a recipe for the Perfect Cherry Clafoutis incorporating fresh Michigan Montmorency or Balaton tart cherries, or the sweeter Ulster cherries, my husband picked from King Orchards in Northern Michigan. Of course, I started with Julia Child’s Clafoutis recipe and worked from there.

Making Cherry ClafoutisMaking Cherry Clafoutis to celebrate Chuck’s milestone 100th birthday.

To my utter delight, I was successful with the recipe for Perfect Cherry Clafoutis with a few simple twists that I think even Julia Child herself would approve.

Sophisticated yet simple, creamy, rich and scrumptious yet incredibly easy to prepare, our Perfect Cherry Clafoutis is based on Julia Child’s classic French recipe but with a twist. Everyone will love this recipe. It never fails to impress! | easy dessert recipeTo view and print the recipe for Perfect Cherry Clafoutis, click here.

If you are a fan and loyal customer of Williams-Sonoma as I am, but have not read nor know much about Chuck Williams and his fascinating life and entrepreneurial spirit, I implore upon you to read two (2) books, Merchant of Sonoma: Pioneer of the American Kitchen by William Warren (2011) and Chuck’s first cookbook and kitchenware guide, The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook and Guide to Kitchenware (1986).

These two books in particular will have you understanding more about him and appreciating his very humble beginnings, his intense drive to succeed in everything he set out to accomplish (even building three houses!) and his love of tasteful yet highly functional kitchenware, as well as learn about the very beginnings, the struggles, recovery and impressive rise of the Williams-Sonoma we all know and love today with its impeccable catalog and ever alluring retail stores outfitted with teaching kitchens here in the U.S. and abroad.

The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook and Guide to Kitchenware

Chuck’s first cookbook, The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook and Guide to Kitchenware.

In the meantime, to learn more about Chuck Williams, visit these wicked cool pages at the Williams-Sonoma website and blog that chronicle his life: The Story of Chuck Williams and Chuck’s Life.

Also, don’t miss this fun read. Check out the Favorite Facts About Chuck page at the Williams-Sonoma blog, Taste, and have a good chuckle. These fun facts were published to celebrate his 98th birthday back in 2013. Here you will find how many “natty ties” Chuck owns and how many Arnold Palmers he has consumed in his lifetime. Hahaha! We love you, Chuck.

Williams-Sonoma Cookbook Library CollectionThe Williams-Sonoma Cookbook Library—the cookbook collection that started it all!

For this food blogger and recipe developer here at Wicked Good Kitchen, Chuck has had a profound influence—just as much as Julia Child, if not more so due to his foray into the world of publishing by becoming a publisher of cookbooks. This turn of events evolved into a separate and distinct second career for Chuck!

In Mr. Williams, I recognize the same entrepreneurial drive as well as the desire to write exceptional recipes that can easily be replicated in any home kitchen. When I write a recipe, you will always know where to place your oven rack, how to prepare your baking dishes, pans or sheets and their size—often with links to find the actual baking vessels I use such as Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch® Bakeware pieces. In addition, you are certain to find metric measurements as well as several tips and perhaps ingredient substitutions and recipe variations in the Notes section that were thoroughly testedoften accommodating food allergies. No one is perfect, but striving for excellence is the goal that Mr. Williams taught me.

Stacy and Love for Cherries 2015

Photo of yours truly snapped by The Big Lug upon his return home from The Great Cherry Haul of 2015.

You see, Chuck has the ability to dissect a recipe in mere seconds flat and spot the errors and inconsistencies like a steadfast hawk. Approaching written recipes in this way assured that each and every single Williams-Sonoma recipe in print would have exacting accuracy—even right down to the accompanying full-color photographs!

While editing and plowing through recipes, Mr. Williams would often exclaim, “Give them a break!” He would famously make this comment whenever a recipe was too busy or unnecessarily complicated, or even if a word was misused such as “grated” versus the proper “shredded” for cheese. Isn’t it good to know that he is always on the side of his readers and their collective sanity?

During photo shoots, Chuck was known to be critical if he found the carrots were supposed to be diced but were coarsely chopped instead or if the recipe being photographed contained less sugar than the recipe actually called for. Yep. You guessed it. That fruit pie or cobbler would just have to be baked again, restyled and reshot! Although this must have driven the photographers and stylists as well as their kitchen assistants “mad hat crazy” during shoots, I just admire and adore him for this! Truthfully, the photography teams he often worked with probably respected him immensely despite the inconveniences. Mr. Williams exudes excellence in leadership on every level.

Montmorency Cherries from King Orchards in Northern MichiganStunningly gorgeous Montmorency cherries picked at King Orchards in Northern Michigan.

Our Mr. Williams has “seen it all” over the years since founding Williams-Sonoma in 1956…the advent of the food processor with Cuisinart, KitchenAid mixers offered in different colors (he approved the first color, European Blue!) and even introduced Le Creuset enameled cast-iron cookware to the U.S. market by purchasing direct from their factory in France. In addition, he witnessed an incredible evolution in kitchenware starting during the 1970s, known as “the decade of the home cook”.

Perfect Cherry Clafoutis

Dusting the freshly baked Cherry Clafoutis with confectioners’ sugar using my stainless steel shaker purchased from Williams-Sonoma several years ago.

Knowing a little bit more about our beloved “Merchant of Sonoma”, you now know where the unparalleled customer service and extraordinary line of handpicked kitchenware comes from at Williams-Sonoma.

As a loyal W-S customer, I am forever grateful for the very wise Mr. Howard Lester. After acquiring Williams-Sonoma and subsequently taking the booming enterprise public, he recognized in Chuck Williams that he was indeed Williams-Sonoma and that the brand was a true “lifestyle” brand in every sense of the word. The two men pooled their intellectual assets, developed a mutual respect and quickly learned to work together without stepping on each other’s toes.

The Merchant of Sonoma - Chuck Williams by William Warren Book Cover

Merchant of Sonoma: Chuck Williams, Pioneer of the American Kitchen, by William Warren (2011).

However, I will not ruin the story for you. It is priceless. Read more of this tale in Merchant of Sonoma: Pioneer of the American Kitchen by William Warren. No one would ever again question Mr. Williams’ uncanny ability to innately know, by sheer well-honed skill, experience and intuition, which products to source for the Williams-Sonoma mail order catalog and retail stores that were certain to become best sellers.

By founding Williams-Sonoma and being a master curator, by his example Chuck has ensured a lasting legacy for the culinary world and those who just really dig their kitchenware line due to the distinctive W-S hallmarks and promise of quality, style, form, function and value.

At our house, the Williams-Sonoma lifestyle is alive and ever expanding with new accent and kitchenware pieces that last. In fact, my latest addition is this set of fabulous Copper Measuring Cups!

Marble Pastry Board Imported from SpainMy new Marble Pastry Board imported from Spain by Williams-Sonoma along with my new Copper Measuring Cups. (The copper-handled balloon whisk is not from Williams-Sonoma. However, it would definitely be a great addition to the iconic W-S “Wall of Tools”!)

From the very basics to the more sophisticated kitchen equipment and tools from Williams-Sonoma, I treasure my collection started as a new bride…from my Wooden Lemon Reamer that I use nearly every day (click for the special edition, Chuck’s 100th Birthday Wooden Lemon Reamer) and Balloon Whisk, selected right from the iconic W-S “Wall of Tools” found in every Williams-Sonoma store, to my beloved set of Wüsthof Knives, Deruta-Style Hand Painted Chicken Water Pitcher, Mason Cash Bowls and Pudding Basins, Marble Pastry Board, Ateco Cake Stand and Turntable, Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch® Nonstick Bakeware Set (a great 6-piece starter set), my incredible workhorses, KitchenAid Stand Mixers (in 3 colors!), All-Clad Cookware, Pillivuyt Collection and seasonal statement tabletop pieces.

Those are just a few examples and I love them all.

To view the special limited-edition Williams-Sonoma collection celebrating Chuck’s 100th birthday, known as Chuck’s Signature Collection, that are actually his personal favorites, click here. I’m eyeing that wonderful Maple Rolling Pin bearing his signature!

Pecan Pumpkin Butter

My beloved Pecan Pumpkin Butter from Williams-Sonoma. It’s an annual treat each autumn season!

As for my favorite food items from W-S, my pantry is never without my beloved Italian Pernigotti Cocoa with its special whisper of vanilla. It’s the best cocoa ever! I swear by it.

Pernigotti Cocoa Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

My favorite unsweetened cocoa powder in the world. It’s deep and rich cocoa flavor combined with the subtle vanilla scent and flavor is completely spellbinding!

Also, Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour is a must for my gluten free baking and recipe development when I don’t use my own blend or wish to offer a quick and easy gluten free option for my recipes here on the blog. It’s so dependable and hasn’t failed me yet!

Williams-Sonoma Mulling Spices

Williams-Sonoma Mulling Spices will fill your home with the cozy citrus-spice aromas that come with fall and the flavors we crave in our hot beverages when the weather turns chilly.

Must haves for the fall and winter holidays always include Williams-Sonoma Mulling Spices, Pecan Pumpkin Butter and Williams-Sonoma Apple & Spices Turkey Brining Blend, if I am not making my own from scratch. Also, we never seem to miss anything peppermint such as the holiday classic W-S Peppermint Bark!

Williams-Sonoma Hand Soap Lotion and Bar Mop Towels and Dish Cloths

Although my go to Williams-Sonoma Hand Soap and Lotion for everyday use is the Pink Grapefruit variety, I enjoy switching it up seasonally with fall and winter holiday scents like Cinnamon Spice.

In addition, I simply do not know what I would do without a constant supply of W-S Hand Soaps and Lotions (the Pink Grapefruit rules) or Bar Mop Towels and Dishcloths from the W-S Homekeeping collection.

True Story: A stack of those towels saved the day last St. Patrick’s Day when our refrigerator’s water valve (to supply our ice maker) decided to fail and I had a shooting geyser to defend against floor damage as I ran downstairs to turn off the water supply to the house, with a tricky and very stubborn lever-handle ball valve!

Sophisticated yet simple, creamy, rich and scrumptious yet incredibly easy to prepare, our Perfect Cherry Clafoutis is based on Julia Child’s classic French recipe but with a twist. Everyone will love this recipe. It never fails to impress! | easy dessert recipe

Perfect Cherry Clafoutis served on Williams-Sonoma Jardin dessert plate used as a charger (sadly, the 4-piece set is no longer available) and Pillivuyt bread and butter plate used as a dessert plate.

One thing about Williams-Sonoma…it is and always will be “The House that Chuck Built”.

Cheers to you, Mr. Williams, our beloved Founder of Williams-Sonoma! Thank you for inspiring us and for giving us the opportunity to cook in style and for teaching us to entertain with heart. You are a gentleman, an architect, a teacher, a leader and pioneer as well as an ambassador of good taste.

All Over The World, we admire and adore you and celebrate with you on this momentous day! We sincerely wish for you a happy 100th birthday and many more to come. In fact, we hope you will be celebrating not just all weekend long, but into this next entire year!

xo,

stacysig

 

 

 

An Afterword:

Recently, I wondered to myself…if I were to host a bash to celebrate Chuck Williams’ 100th Birthday, what music would I play for such a momentous occasion?

The wheels started turning and I immediately thought the evening would most definitely start with E.L.O.’s classic rock anthem and party hit, All Over The World. In my mind, it would be the best way to kick off the festivities and get everyone in a party mood.

Plus, the song is ideal as there are Chuck Williams friends, fans and supporters all around the globe celebrating on this day along with him. Plus, who doesn’t like E.L.O. and their incredible symphonic sound? From there, I would play tunes from Mr. Williams’ favorite artists through the decades.

Below are the song lyrics to E.L.O.’s classic hit, All Over The World.

Did You Know?

Shard End, an area of Birmingham, England, is where Jeff Lynne, the ever-talented songwriter, musician and vocalist of E.L.O., grew up.

To sing this song for Chuck’s 100th Birthday Celebration, simply replace the words Shard End with San Fran in the lyrics.

All Over The World

Everybody all around the world
Gotta tell you what I just heard
There’s gonna be a party all over the world

I got a message on the radio
But where it came from I don’t really know
And I heard these voices calling all over the world

All over the world
Everybody got the word
Everybody everywhere is gonna feel tonight

Everybody walkin’ down the street
Everybody movin’ to the beat
They’re gonna get hot down in the USA
(New York, Detroit, LA)

We’re gonna take a trip across the sea
Everybody come along with me
We’re gonna hit the night down in Gay Paree (Paris)

All over the world
Everybody got the word
Everybody everywhere is gonna feel tonight

London, Hamburg, Paris, Rome
Rio, Hong Kong, Tokyo
LA, New York, Amsterdam
Monte Carlo, Shard End San Fran and…

All over the world
Everybody got the word
Everybody everywhere is gonna feel tonight

Everybody all around the world
Gotta tell you what I just heard
Everybody walkin’ down the street
I know a place where we all can meet

Everybody gonna have a good time
Everybody will shine till the daylight

All over the world
Everybody got the word
Everybody everywhere is gonna feel tonight

All over the world, everybody got the word
All over the world, everybody got the word
All over the world, everybody got the word

Artist: Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.), from the album Light Years.
Songwriter: Jeff Lynne

Links:

All Over The World YouTube Video
All Over The World YouTube Video of Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra with BBC Concert Orchestra at Hyde Park Festival in a Day, September 2014.
Another Fun YouTube Video: E.L.O.’s All Over The World, Flash Mob Style

About Stacy

Stacy Bryce is a recipe developer and member of the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). Her passion is developing original conventional baking recipes as well as special diet recipes to include dairy-free, gluten-free and grain-free. You can follow Stacy at Pinterest.

Comments

  1. Welcome back, Stacy! 🙂 What a fitting tribute to Chuck Williams, I have a feeling he’d like your clafoutis very much, a fine birthday dessert. I love these anecdotes you shared in his honor!
    Laura (Tutti Dolci) recently posted…cashew caramel cookiesMy Profile

    • Thank you for the warm welcome back and for the compliment, Laura! Classic Cherry Clafoutis with a twist seemed fitting for our dear Chuck Williams to celebrate his milestone 100th birthday! Thanks for dropping by my sweet friend and enjoy the rest of your weekend! 🙂

  2. Yay!!! I am so so happy to see this post (and the other one I haven’t read yet) – welcome back dear Stacy! Chuck Williams would be tickled pink with this fabulous Cherry Clafoutis – it looks freaking gorgeous – as do you, my friend! Nice to see a rare picture of you! xx
    Shashi at RunninSrilankan recently posted…Mango Coconut Pudding In White Chocolate CupsMy Profile

    • Thank you for your incredibly kind and thoughtful comments as well as for the warm welcome back, Shashi! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and have a fabulous week ahead, my friend! xx

  3. Stacy, it’s so good to see you back! This is such a wonderful post to an incredible man. I’m a huge fan of Williams Sonoma, and believe it or not, when I was in cooking school I met him a few times as he and the owner of the school were friends! It was mind-blowing to me to serve him food, even when I served him my fallen souffle. 🙂 I’ve never made cherry clafoutis, and this looks amazing, as do you in that photo!
    marcie recently posted…Butternut Squash Mac and CheeseMy Profile

    • Thank you, sweet Marcie! You are THE BEST, girl. 🙂 You really know how to make someone feel good and welcome them back. I greatly appreciate the warm wishes. (Although, when I see myself in that photo, I just see how sick I was at the time. I totally faked it! I was just so happy to get a boatload of fresh picked cherries.) I knew about the friendship between Mary Risley, of Tante Marie’s Cooking School, and Chuck Williams. I always wanted to go there! You are one lucky girl. I always received their brochures in the mail due to being on the IACP mailing list, but San Fran was/is so far away and expensive. It was either that or I wanted to attend Peter Kump’s to study pastry under Nick Malgieri. 🙂 Of course, I am now just SICK knowing that Nick used to teach at Kitchen Glamour in West Bloomfield, Michigan (back in the day, my favorite store for baking supplies!) and he adored Ann Arbor, Michigan—my old stomping grounds! He wrote about it once on his blog and my heart just fell to the floor. *sigh* Anyway, I think I’d faint serving Chuck Williams something I prepared in the kitchen, LOL! I’m so glad you had the opportunity to meet him in person! Thanks for stopping by and have a great rest of the week! xo

  4. What an interesting Blog. All news to me—-. I might even make me a popular dinner party
    guest—–well at least with the foodies. And who else would I be eating dinner with anyway.
    Lol
    Carol at Wild Goose Mama recently posted…Hey Mama Goose Food Advice ColumnMy Profile

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