Go inside the minds of three Sacramento chefs

Chef Kurt Spataro with wife and local radio personality Kitty O'Neal at their home in Sacramento on Friday, September 13, 2013.
Chef Kurt Spataro with wife and local radio personality Kitty O'Neal at their home in Sacramento on Friday, September 13, 2013.

What makes a chef tick? What elevates food from fuel to fine art? What sparks a kitchen’s creative flame?

Find out during a special evening with three Sacramento chefs as they share their personal journeys and insights into their culinary creativity.

“Inside the Creative Mind – Culinary Forum” is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Folsom Community Center, 52 Natoma St., Folsom. Tickets ($55) are on sale now for this fund-raiser for Assistance League of the Sierra Foothills’ programs for families and seniors.

Sacramento Bee restaurant critic Carla Meyer will moderate a panel discussion featuring Kurt Spataro, executive chef and co-owner of the Paragary Restaurant Group, along with longtime professional chefs Randy Aprill and John Hall. The event also features raffles, appetizers and wine bars.

Hall, who worked for several years with Max’s World Restaurants in the Bay Area, now molds young chefs at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Sacramento. On this panel, Hall replaces restaurateur Molly Hawks, who was earlier announced.

Aprill, a hospitality veteran who has cooked meals for heads of state in Washington D.C. as well as guests at high-end hotels, now tries to please another sector of demanding clients: Seniors. Aprill is executive chef at the River’s Edge upscale retirement community in Sacramento.

“It’s been a really beautiful experience,” Aprill said in a phone interview. “I challenge myself in feeding them every day. In a job like this, you form relationships. You listen to their stories. They’re very vocal with their comments, too. Like a ballplayer, you’re only as good as your last game.”

Sports originally introduced Aprill to food, he said. “I got into cooking in high school,” said Aprill, a Michigan native. “I ran track and cross country. A lot of jocks at our school took home economics because it was an easy ‘A.’ There were five or six guys from the football team. It was a joke at first, but by the end of the year, I excelled. I really liked it. The teacher suggested I pursue cooking as a career.”

In college, Aprill studied hotel restaurant management. He honed his chops at the Culinary Institute of America and applied his skills in Washington, D.C., on the culinary teams at Blair House – the president’s official state guest house – and the White House. His resume also includes stints at hotels, country clubs, William and Mary College and Stanford Medical Center’s Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital.

Everywhere he’s cooked, one principle has remained true, Aprill noted. Creativity is an essential ingredient for success.

“You do much more than put food on a plate,” he said. “Being a chef means constant creativity. You have to do more than make food taste good. It must be eye appealing. You eat with your eyes first.

“Our industry is not like any other,” he added. “It’s not all nuts and bolts. You know the essentials, but then you get inspired and try something totally different. We have permission to play with your food.”

For tickets and more information on “Inside the Creative Mind,” click on

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington