December 15, 2015 – In a surprise mid-life career change, French chef Jérôme Viel of Wills Fargo Steakhouse in Carmel Valley is leaving the restaurant and buying the local grocery store, Carmel Valley Market. “I want to have a different lifestyle. I’m excited to be able to work more in the daytime and less at night,” says Viel, who will stay at Wills Fargo through January 2 and hopes to take over the market in mid-January.
Viel wants to spend more time with his family, which includes two daughters ages 4 and 9. “Everyone says they grow up so fast, enjoy them while they’re young,” he adds, admitting that as a chef he seldom gets home before midnight.
Viel plans to keep the local market running much as it has been under the current owners, who also own the Grove Market in Pacific Grove, with a small fresh produce section and a good butcher shop.
“My very first cooking job when I was about 15 was at a butcher shop and deli in Brittany, so this is kind of familiar,” says Viel. He plans to put in a hood system so he can cook in the back and do some catering. He wants to make fresh soups and prepared meals for people to pick up on their way home from work.
The Lowder family, which owns Wills Fargo restaurant and Holman Ranch, issued a statement wishing their chef well in his new endeavor and thanking him for “his contribution in making Wills Fargo the best it can be.” Hunter Lowder told EMB: “We are very excited for Jérôme and working on a new chef.”