Meet the Team

Our accomplished team of professionals includes some of the best in the business, many of whom are CIA alumni. Learn more about our team below.

Sayat Ozyilmaz ’15, executive chef at The CIA at Copia in Napa, CA

Sayat Ozyilmaz, CIA ’15
Executive Chef

Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, Chef Sayat brings the distinct flavors and cooking style of his heritage into the kitchen. He came to the U.S. on a scholarship to Dartmouth College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. Hospitality was the furthest thing from his mind, until a solo trip through Turkey and Armenia got him thinking about cooking professionally.

Embracing the power of food to bring people and communities together, Chef enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America. He worked at the acclaimed Blue Hill at Stone Barns while at the CIA and at Le Bernardin upon graduation.

During his time at the CIA, Chef met fellow student Laura Millan, his future wife. After their wedding, the food-loving duo embarked on a multi-city honeymoon, setting up stages at prestigious restaurants, including Pujol, Husk, and Robuchon.

Finally setting roots in San Francisco, Sayat joined the team at Michelin-starred Mourad before partnering with Laura for Istanbul Modern SF—which served a refined, yet casual cuisine rooted in community and creativity. They later opened Noosh, where they earned numerous accolades and critical acclaim for their inventive take on Middle Eastern flavors

Chef Sayat came home to the CIA in Spring 2021, where he blends his signature flavors and style with the seasonal bounty of our gardens and the region.

John Riggio ’07, director of food and beverage at The CIA at Copia in Napa, CA

John Riggio, CIA ’07
Director—Food and Beverage

After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in 2007, John and his wife jumped on a plane and flew to the Napa Valley. Touring the vineyards and tasting rooms of Napa and Sonoma gave him the wine bug and John continued to study with the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2009. His next stops on the wine route were the vineyards and restaurants of France, where he developed a deep appreciation for French hospitality and the wines of the Rhone Valley.

After opening his first property with Wolfgang Puck in Washington, DC, a 250,000 square-foot restaurant, banquet, and event center, John took over the wine program and developed an international list focused on both well-known producers and smaller, Virginia wineries. As he moved across the country buying wine, conducting tastings and training staff, John worked at large and small properties from Texas to California, and continued to search for unique producers making great wine in unlikely places.

Now, after returning to the Napa Valley, John has begun to build a diverse wine and cocktail program for The Grove at Copia that is rooted in the great, classic wines of the valley, but also celebrates the exploration of small California producers who are growing non-traditional varieties and using natural fermentation techniques.

On the cocktail side, John is taking inspiration from Copia’s Culinary Gardens, and is pairing savory items, like fresh sage leaves, Fennell syrups, carrot juice, cilantro, with small batch gins, rums, and tequilas from Sonoma County.

Always hungry to further his education, John is currently pursuing advanced certification through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Outside work, John and his family love to hunt through the restaurants and food trucks of Oakland, San Francisco, and the Bay Area. And even though he calls Napa home, his favorite wines come from a little further south in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara (don’t tell the locals).

Chef Gianina Clark ’08 at The CIA at Copia in Napa, CA

Gianina Clark, CIA ’08

Chef Gianina Clark fell in love with food growing up, traveling to the market with her family in the Philippines in the early hours of the morning to get the best meat and seasonal produce. When she graduated college, Chef Clark moved to the United States and attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. After graduating in 2008, she went on to work at Michelin-starred Santé at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa and other Northern California restaurants before joining The CIA at Copia team in 2018, most recently helping to launch the new Lunch Box. Fun fact: Chef Clark played soccer for the U-19 Women’s Philippines Team!

Zainab “Zee” Husain, culinary gardener at The CIA at Copia in Napa, CA

Zainab “Zee” Husain
Culinary Gardener

Zainab “Zee” Husain is a recent transplant to Napa. She graduated from the University of California, Davis with a master’s in international agricultural development and is pursuing her passion for growing and learning more about foods from various parts of the world. She is excited to work with the chefs at The CIA at Copia to select and grow varieties that are not commonly found in the local food system. In her free time, Zee enjoys backpacking, running, and cooking her way through her collection of cookbooks.