Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nick Heinrich, Welcome back Chef!

There’s something about Bounty Hunter – it has its own gravitational pull. In fact, it’s not uncommon that customers who walk through our doors become employees. Once enveloped in the fold, we tend to stay for a respectable length of time, and if we leave, there’s a good chance we’ll be back.
Nick Heinrich is the latest to be pulled back to the mother ship. He’s a good ol’ Southern boy, proudly raised in Alabama (Roll Tide!), and while the boy left Alabama, it’s still in him as strong as ever… especially his cooking.
Nick trained under several prominent chefs in Alabama. It was there that he learned the joys of “New Southern Cuisine,” a term he dislikes, calling it “cliché, but whatever – that’s what it is.” In the early 2000s he moved to California, specifically San Francisco, where he worked at The Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton. Nick says that his time there turned everything he knew about cooking on its side, opening his eyes to an exciting world of gastronomy, technique and elegant preparations; “Back then, when I’d tell people about sous vide cooking, they’d look at me like I was crazy, and now there are cookbooks on the subject.” 
For years Nick kept a foot in both California and Alabama and in 2004 he worked harvest in Napa Valley at Carneros Creek. “It was awesome,” Nick beams, “Carneros was the new black.” He then jokes, “Imagine working 14 hour days with beautiful views, exciting new smells and experiences; as a chef it really brought it all together for me.”
But the kitchen is where Nick feels most at home and when a friend told him about this place in Napa called Bounty Hunter, he had to check it out. One meal and two days later he came back with résumé in hand – without a phone call or an appointment – and was hired on the spot. He stayed as Sous Chef for two years, then left to start a successful catering business. But eventually, the emails and clerical work got in the way. “It got to be a distraction, keeping me from my favorite part – the actual cooking.”
Nick’s cooking full steam these days and also inspiring and teaching his team; “I love sharing with my crew how something works, why we do a preparation a certain way, or how to make it better.” He’s also excited to embrace more local and seasonal foods, “We’re using whatever it is that’s coming out of the ground or off the farm that looks good,” he tells us. As your Napa Valley insiders, we’re pleased to say that besides fine wine and spirits, our realm includes farm fresh food too, thanks to Nick.