As the holiday season approaches, join Nigel Jones, Intu-On Kornnawong, and Thomas Schnetz, three esteemed chefs hailing from the vibrant culinary scene of Oakland, as they open up about their cherished holiday traditions and the unique gems they've discovered in the city.

From heartwarming traditions to uncovering exclusive Oakland finds, these talented chefs offer a delightful glimpse into their festive traditions and the one-of-a-kind gifts that reflect the diverse and flavorful spirit of Oakland.

Nigel Jones, Owner of Calabash and Kingston 11

Chef Nigel Jones from Calabash and Kingston 11My name is Nigel Jones and I am the Chef/Owner of Calabash and Kingston 11. I have called Oakland home for 22 years, and I continue to cherish every moment. One of my favorite holiday traditions is embarking on a mid-day family hike through the stunning trails of Oakland's Redwood Regional Park to work up an appetite for the festive meal that awaits us.

When it comes to entertaining at home, my go-to is a hot cup of home pour over drip Chai Coffee, made with Red Bay Coffee whole bean coffee and an array of chai spices from Oaktown Spice Shop on Grand Ave.

And as a hostess gift, I love sharing the delightful wines produced or distributed by Oakland-based Black Vines, including the exquisite offerings from Indigene Cellars, Wachira Wines, Theopolis Vineyards, Rosenblum Cellars, Coco Noir, and P. Harrell Wines. Think Oakland First when you think of great wines!

Intu-On Kornnawong, Chef at Jo's Modern Thai

Chef Intu-on Kornnawong – Jo’s Modern Thai, inspired by MissoniMy name is Intu-On Kornnawong and I am the Chef at Jo's Modern Thai. I have been living and working in Oakland for about 2.5 years. My favorite holiday tradition is Thanksgiving, especially since it's a holiday I've come to embrace since moving to the U.S. Our entire family gathers together to celebrate every year. I love the festive energy in Oakland during the holidays and also love celebrating Thai New Year in April.

When it comes to entertaining at home during the holidays, my go-to place is either Lao Market or Mithapheap Market in East Oakland to buy all the Laos & Thai ingredients needed to prepare Thai dishes such as Som Tam or papaya salad, and other Thai delicacies.

I also love visiting Oaktown Spice Shop to grab spices for various dishes and cuisines at home. These markets have everything I need to entertain my guests with authentic and delicious dishes from my culture.


Thomas Schnetz, Chef at La Esquinita

Thomas Schnetz, Chef at La EsquinitaMy name is Thomas Schnetz and I am the Chef/Owner of La Esquinita. Having lived and worked in Oakland for about 30 years, my favorite holiday tradition revolves around coming together with my family to prepare a festive feast. While we always have a turkey, we also like to make different dishes to accompany it, such as gumbo, chile rellenos, or a crab bisque, alongside the usual favorites like mashed potatoes, Mac & Cheese, scalloped potatoes, camote, sautéed Brussel sprouts with pancetta, and grandma’s stuffing.

When it comes to at-home entertaining, I enjoy going on fruitcake hunts around Oakland, seeking out unique and delicious options. Arizmendi Bakery makes a fantastic one, and the Market Hall in Rockridge always has a selection of intriguing fruitcakes from various sources.

As for my favorite host/hostess gift from Oakland, I love bringing Den sake from Umami Mart. It's a world-class sake that never fails to impress with its exceptional quality.


Looking for more things to do this Holiday season in Oakland? Explore our Holidays page to learn more!