Our Staff

Minetti Family – Owners

The Far Western Tavern is owned by three generations of the Minetti family. Clarence and Rosalie Minetti established the Far Western Tavern in 1958 along with Rosalie’s cousin, Richard Maretti, and his wife Jean. The restaurant was born of local flavors and family traditions, and inspired by classic California ranch-style hospitality. This founding legacy endures today as Clarence and Rosalie’s children and grandchildren remain committed to advancing the Far Western Tavern tradition.

Benjamin Chanler Laurin – General Manager & Sommelier

Benjamin is an accomplished hospitality professional with a deep background in restaurant management and wine service. A native of France, Benjamin studied at the I.S.G. International School of Business as well as at the National Institute of Oriental Language in Paris. In his diverse career, Benjamin has served as a sommelier, wine broker and lead barista for Peets Coffee and Teas. In 2007, he joined the famed Patina Restaurant Group in Los Angeles, where he served as manager and sommelier at the Founders Room and Pinot Grill at the Los Angeles Music Center, managed the Pool Circle at the Hollywood Bowl, and later served as assistant general manager at Kendall’s Brasserie. Prior to joining the Far Western Tavern, he was the general manager and sommelier at The Flintridge Proper in La Cañada Flintridge, California. “My aim at the Far Western Tavern is to provide a rare and remarkable hospitality experience that showcases the distinctive flavors of the Santa Maria Valley,” he says. “Excellent ranch-style cuisine offered with a welcoming spirit—that was the founding vision of the Far Western Tavern starting in 1958, and it is our guiding principle today.”

James Gentry – Chef

James is a Santa Maria native who developed his passion for cooking at an early age. He attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, where he enhanced his palate and skills with strict training and special guidance from leading chefs. After starting his career in corporate catering, he joined Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse in downtown Los Angeles, where he worked with Chef Megan Logan. “Once I had enough hands-on training to advance my career, I decided to move back home,” James says. He further honed his line cooking technique at Chumash Casino in the Santa Ynez Valley before joining the Far Western Tavern. “The Far Western Tavern is a perfect fit for my skills and experience,” he says. “I’m always pushing myself—my motto is you’re only as good as your last meal.”

Kerry Farao – Wine Steward

Kerry is a Santa Maria Valley native with extensive experience in the fields of food and wine, starting with her first job as a server at the Far Western Tavern. “Clarence Minetti taught me the proper way to pour and present wine to a guest,” she says. She earned her enology and viticulture degree from Fresno State. She has worked at Napa Valley’s Beaulieu Vineyard, Oakville Grocery and Brix Wine Shop, and at Santa Barbara County’s Zaca Mesa Winery and Foxen Winery. She has achieved the first level of the Court of Master Sommelier, and is on her way toward completing this prestigious internationally recognized program. As our wine steward, she comes full circle back to the Far Western Tavern, managing our 1,200-bottle cellar, conducting staff education and providing insightful wine service to our customers.

Lori Hamill – Events Coordinator

Lori is a 4th-generation Santa Maria Valley native with deep local experience in events and hospitality. She comes to the Far Western Tavern after nearly 20 years in the Santa Barbara County wine industry, most recently working at Foxen Winery as the hospitality manager.  Lori has explored culinary styles from around the world, developing considerable food and wine pairing expertise along the way.  “My goal is to make your next event at the Far Western Tavern one you’ll never forget,” Lori says. “From the menu to the ambiance to all of the little details, I will work closely with you to meet your vision.”