When Michael Chiarello decided to step outside the restaurant world in 2000 (he was executive chef for tra Vigne and seven other restaurants) to focus on other aspects of his culinary career, he knew he’d be back in the kitchen one day.
Being out of the day-to-day of a restaurant allowed Chiarello to nurture new projects. He debuted his first wines with Chiarello Family Vineyards; created NapaStyle, a far-reaching retail line of artisanal foods, kitchenware, and home décor; he wrote books (Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking that won an IACP Cookbook Award in 2002); and co-produced and hosted a cooking show on the Food Network, Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello, which won three daytime Emmy Awards. But then in 2008, Chiarello came back to the kitchen, opening Bottega Napa Valley. It was an easy choice when it came right down to it—he missed cooking for guests.
“I enjoy retail, designing products, writing books, and hosting on television, but nothing compares to the pure pleasure I get out of cooking. I love the community of the kitchen, the dedication that I see culinarians give to their craft, and having the opportunity to help influence smart decisions and the evolution of young chefs.”
Chiarello has a special place in his heart for the connections that he can make with his guests. “It makes me happy to visit the tables during service, seeing the cause and effect of everybody’s hard work. I was born to serve. I really enjoy making other people happy by throwing a great party.”
At Bottega, Chiarello is able to give the restaurant the kind of attention to detail that it deserves, and it shows. In fact, the restaurant is the centerpiece for everything else; it feeds the other entities, providing inspiration for new products at NapaStyle, original content for books and television shows, and a place to share a glass of the latest vintages of Chiarello Family Vineyards.
Chiarello is eager to continue to move forward on all fronts (he just wrapped up filming Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef that will air this fall), but always keeps a watchful eye in the rearview mirror of his life. “I know what the glories are and the pitfalls of doing too much. I am at a place in my life where I am content not to rush off into the next thing. I have a new perspective on balancing all the parts of my life, and I’m happy it’s working.”