Known for his innovative use of fresh herbs and spices, Jerry Traunfeld is chef and owner of Poppy and Lionhead restaurants, both in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. After a fascination watching Julia Child on The French Chef in the early 70’s, Jerry began to teach himself to cook in his early teens. In 1983 he graduated from the California Culinary Academy and went on to cook at two important San Francisco restaurants, Ernie’s and Stars. He then moved to Seattle and became executive chef of The Alexis Hotel while he was still in his 20’s, overseeing four restaurants including the Café Alexis.
In 1990, Jerry had the opportunity to combine his love of cooking with his love of gardening when he became executive chef of The Herbfarm, a tiny restaurant that was part of a working herb nursery. Over the next 17 years, Jerry helped turn The Herbfarm into a highly regarded and top-rated destination restaurant, garnering national attention for his seasonal Northwest menus, his innovative use of culinaryherbs, and his pioneering dedication to seeking out local sustainable ingredients. In 2000, he won the James Beard award for “Best Chef Northwest”.
Jerry is the author of two acclaimed cookbooks on the subject of culinary herbs, The Herbfarm Cookbook, which won an IACP award, and The Herbal Kitchen. He has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Fortune, and many other publications. Jerry’s television appearances include Martha Stewart Living and Top Chef Masters. On a 1997 trip to India to research spices for a new cookbook, Jerry discovered the thali, a platter served to each guest holding a variety of small dishes that complement and contrast each other to form a complete meal. He returned with the inspiration to open his own restaurant, featuring the idea of the thali to present his style of seasonal cooking highlighted by fresh herbs and spices. He named the restaurant Poppy after his mother and it opened in 2008. It was named one of 50 best new restaurants in the U.S. in Travel and Leisure and made the Condé Nast hot list of 50 top new restaurants in the world.
In 2015 Jerry opened Lionhead, a Sichuan Chinese restaurant located next door to Poppy. Jerry has been cooking Chinese food as a hobby since he was in culinary school, and for several years before opening the restaurant he immersed himself in creating a menu that brings the authentic flavors of Sichuan Province to Seattle. Seattle Met Magazine named him 2015 Chef of the Year for this work, and Lionhead was a 2015 restaurant of the year in Seattle Magazine.
Jerry lives on Capitol Hill with his husband, Stephen, who works with him at the restaurants.