Friday, January 27, 2012

Meet the Bounty Hunter Chef: Will Wright

Southerners treat their barbecue like a religion. There are those who worship at the altar of North Carolina ‘cue, and others who pay homage to sweet Texas or Memphis style. So they are often surprised when Will Wright introduces them to Bounty Hunter’s Wine Country BBQ. A few bites put their minds at ease. The Tiburon native may be a California boy through and through, but this kid knows his way around a smoker.

A former investment banker, Will grew up in a large Italian family, and he’s right at home in any kitchen. In fact, he’s done stints in some of the finest, including The French Laundry and the now defunct Julia’s Kitchen, and counts Thomas Keller, James Beard and Julia Child as culinary role models. After three years of putting on a suit and working his way up the banking ladder, Will’s childhood passion for cooking inspired him to hang up his tie and enroll in the California Culinary Academy, from which he graduated with honors in 2003.

Upon graduation, Will took a Sous Chef position at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn’s fine dining restaurant Sante. “After two years, I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii to help Fairmont open several restaurant outlets at their newly acquired Orchid property on the big island,” he says. When he returned to California, Will took a position as Executive Sous Chef for Wente Vineyards Restaurant. He put in three years before the exhausting daily commute took its toll, and then…. “The restructuring of the management team led me to pursue another position with – drum roll please – Bounty Hunter Rare Wine and Spirits, and here I am today!”

Will started in the back of the house as Sous Chef and then Executive Chef for what was then the Bounty Hunter’s new wine bar. “We must have the smallest kitchen in Napa Valley. If not, it’s in the top five,” Will says. “In order to cook food, we had to use a grill and two Kamodo smokers we had out back, which is why we chose barbecue as our cuisine of choice.”

“I’ve always loved to grill, but while at Bounty Hunter, I have been able to perfect my craft.” Since being promoted to Bounty Hunter General Manager, Will doesn’t get behind the grill as often as he’d like these days. In fact, he starts most mornings at eight when the wine bar opens at 11, Will says all bets are off. He could be charming guests on the floor, taking inventory in the cellar, experimenting in the new commissary kitchen, or interviewing a prospective Wine Slinger.

“There is no such thing as a typical day at the Bounty Hunter. Every day brings new challenges and opportunities,” Will says. “I love meeting and building relationships with new people from all over the world. I also love learning more and more about wine and the industry.”

We asked Will to take a minute and share some of his favorite food and wine pairings from the Bounty Hunter menu. We’re always ready to dispel the notion that wine and ‘cue don’t mix!

1. Pulled Pork Sandwich: Will’s all time favorite menu item. The sauce has just enough vinegar to keep wine lovers on their toes when it comes to pairing. Keep it juicy, red and simple. Will suggests the Gus Rivers Red Wine Blend.

2. Beer Can Chicken Sandwich: One of the most popular items on the menu. Will shreds the chicken and mixes it with a healthy serving of homemade chipotle “Q” sauce. Balance that smoky-sweet sauce and spicy meat with the mouthwatering acidity and plum and cola notes found in the Pursuit Pinot Noir.

3. Chicken Caesar Salad: Homemade Caesar dressing and sourdough crisps over crunchy romaine leaves make this restaurant classic anything but dull. A crisp white wine like the Groth Sauvignon Blanc will cut through the dressing’s richness.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bounty Hunter's Bread Pudding

Makes 8-10 portions

3 sourdough baguettes cut into 1-2" large chunks
7 eggs
1 qt heavy cream
1 ½ C brown sugar
¾ C white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tbs vanilla extract
¼ lb butter, diced small

Directions: Mix all ingredients gently by hand. Add 4 cups of seasonal fruit of your choice and mix on last time. Spray large muffin tins with non-stick spray and bake @ 350° for 25-30 minutes.