Our Chefs

Chef is a heavy word. People who spend their lives in the food industry, most likely, have staunch opinions about the term. We know what it means and we know the message it can hold. We chose to use the term irreverently for many reasons and probably anger hard core traditionalists in doing so. C'est la vie. Chefs come to Polly's Paladar in many different ways. We operate primarily by the seat of our pants with a solid criteria to hold us up in the ever changing waters of the culinary world. These innovative and courageous chefs sometimes travel from far places and step right into the Paladar world and sometimes they are right here among us locals quietly cooking genius. To all of our brave men and women who become Paladar chefs, we salute you.

  • Courtney McDonald & Eric Alexander

  • For the last 15 years, Chefs Courtney McDonald and Eric Alexander have, in the most basic of facilities, produced delightfully imaginative menus, impressed the most demanding of foodies, managed costs and staff like true professionals, and all with a level of modesty that endeared them to every member of the Carpe Vino family. Carpe Vino is a special place in downtown Auburn, and if you haven't dined there, please do. Don't expect chefs McDonald and Alexander there now, however. They have moved on to their project, Josephine. Also in downtown Auburn, the future restaurant, named aptly after their grandmother and their daughter, will celebrate the cuisine of their heritage, their ancestors, and also the place they call home, Placer County.

    As head chef at Carpe Vino, Alexander, alumni of the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, NY, earned four stars (out of four) from the Sacramento Bee; five stars (out of five) from Sacramento News & Review; and three years in a row, his kitchen has been named among the Top 100 Best in America by OpenTable. For Eric, it all began in high school at a family-owned Italian restaurant where he continued to work during college breaks. He started as a Hospitality Business major at Michigan State University but concluded business wasn’t his strong suit.

    The CIA was the place where he made lifelong friends—like Abraham Conlon, owner of acclaimed Fat Rice in Chicago—and, most importantly, his life partner and former Carpe Vino pastry chef, Courtney McDonald. The pair entered the field at restaurants on the east coast: Poste Modern Brasserie at the Monaco Hotel in Washington, D.C. and Harvest Restaurant in Brookfield, Conn. In 2003, they moved to Foresthill to work at the Monte Verde Inn, not far from Courtney’s family in Auburn, followed by Eric’s stint in the dining room at Bootlegger’s in Old Town. In 2006, Eric and Courtney were co-chefs with the opening of Carpe Vino.

    When Courtney decided to enter an internship with Dan Macon of Flying Mule Farm, Chef Alexander shouldered on solo, sharpening his skills while building a reputation in his kitchen. In 2013, Courtney returned as a pastry chef to Carpe Vino. Eric and Courtney now own a five-acre farm near Auburn called Four Tines Farm where they live with their daughter, Josephine. They grow vegetables and flowers; maintain orchards, and raise lambs. .and will help supply their new endeavor with core ingredients for Restaurant Josephine.