Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams dies at 100

 Williams Sonoma cookbooks

Charles (Chuck) Williams, founder of Williams-Sonoma, which introduced French cookware and high-end ingredients into American kitchens, died yesterday at the age of 100. Williams started Williams-Sonoma in 1956 when he purchased an old hardware store and filled it with the copper and other kitchen goods he'd seen while traveling through Europe. A trip to Paris in 1953 provided the inspiration for the store, as Williams became enthralled with both French cuisine and the tools necessary to produce the food, like Dutch ovens, pâté molds, gratins, and mandolins.

It's almost an understatement to say that Williams had a tremendous influence on American cooking. You can learn more about Williams and his impact on cooking at the Williams-Sonoma blog. There's a three-part series that chronicles his rise from humble beginnings to a veritable empire, including Pottery Barn and West Elm in addition to the namesake kitchenware stores.

Williams' success stemmed from his knack for merchandising, attention to detail, and superior customer service.  Good timing also contributed to his accompliments. " Julia Child was introducing French cooking while he was introducing French cookware," said his long-time friend Mary Risley. "That was how it all started." 

1978, Williams sold the majority of the company to Howard Lester, although he remained the face of the company and worked in a variety of capacities until fairly recently. Among his notable contributions were the family of cookbooks produced by Williams-Sonoma, which have sold over 100 million copies worldwide. The most recent book, Cooking at Home (Williams-Sonoma) was created in honor of Williams' 100th birthday.

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