Born and raised on the Central Coast, Tom Fundaro left for Santa Fe just after high school. He recieved his liberal arts degree working his way through college cooking at some of the region’s progressive restaurants, including Zia Diner and Corn Dance Café. The latter served only indigenous native cuisine, and sparked in Tom an interest in a fresh, natural, and sustainable food culture, which has remained a constant focus throughout his career.
Post college, Fundaro cooked at Napa Valley Grill and Sonoma Mission Inn. Then in 1996 he landed a position at Eli Zabar’s The Vinegar Factory in New York as assistant to Executive Chef Keith Eldridge. Here again, Tom was impressed with these values of using the freshest and best whole food ingredients in simple yet innovative preparations. A few years later, Jerry Joseph lured him away to become Executive Chef at Jerry’s Soho. Under Tom’s supervision, the restaurant underwent a complete overhaul on its brunch and dinner menus, focusing on quality, diverse flavor profiles, and wine compatibility.
In 2001, Tom and his wife Claire decided to relocate back to California where they could raise their children in a smaller town where rolling hills and fresh air abound. What they found were organic farms galore, a burgeoning wine industry, and a community starved for more progressive eateries. A Santa Barbara caterer was opening a tapas bar in Paso Robles and was in need of a chef. Tom, who loves all things spanish, jumped at the chance and quickly became known in Paso Robles for his clean, rustic preparations at Trumpet Vine. When the tapas bar closed for renovations in 2002, Cris and JoAnn Cherry offered him the opportunity to take over the kitchen at their neighboring restaurant, Villa Creek.
Tom shares the Cherry’s strong sense of integrity. While the path they’ve chosen is not always the easiest or the most profitable, the resulting dishes are beneficial not only to the palate, but also to the community, and beyond. Over the years, Tom has built strong relationships with the local growers and producers. With this bounty of fresh, local, organic, and sustainable ingredients at hand, he offers simple, rustic, and creative dishes in an eclectic Spanish style.