More Press…

See below a cut and paste of another article that was published in Distinctly Northwest magazine.    This is a great story of how I ended up where I am today.

And the link for reference…

  
 
Creative Meets Classic
Historic Jacksonville Inn welcomes new chef
 
Photos by Bob Pennell

It’s not the delicate aroma of white-truffle polenta, the decadence of pan-fried quail eggs or the marriage of basil and strawberries that Jerry Evans remembers of his first meal prepared by chef Bill Heubel. It’s the underlying, quirky touches that didn’t “make the food taste any better” but, nevertheless, left a lasting impression of Heubel.

“He actually went and purchased some plates before he came in,” Evans recalls. “He had to go back to his cottage because he wanted to iron his chef’s jacket before dinner.

“A memorable dining experience consists of a whole lot of little details.”

Longtime owner of The Jacksonville Inn, Evans knows a few things about crafting memorable dining experiences. During his search for a new executive chef — a position that went unfilled for about three years — Evans wanted a figurehead who actually likes to cook, a hospitality professional who relates to customers on the same level as the inn’s proprietor.

“Not every cook in the world understands that,” Evans says.

Heubel brings all that and more to the table, says his new boss.

“He was just a genuinely nice guy,” Evans says.

The 36-year-old chef distinguished himself from more than 350 applicants vying for the post of executive chef at the historic inn known more recently for hosting President George W. Bush in 2004. Heubel admits that he didn’t know much about the inn’s reputation or accolades before applying. His main goal was moving closer to his native San Francisco Bay Area. Once he embarked on some online research, though, it was clear his destination benefitted from a thriving local food movement awash in high-quality fruits and vegetables, artisan products and an up-and-coming wine industry.

“You throw the wine producers on top of that, as well — there’s just so much out here,” Heubel says.

He made good use of regional specialties during his three-year tenure at Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, N.C. There, Heubel marveled at the availability of unmatched ingredients, such as grains that were not only grown locally but custom-milled by the same family for generations. Yet the chef yearned to return to the West Coast and its interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine, his passion.

“It doesn’t make much sense to cook Mediterranean food in the South,” Heubel says. Nor did the style fit the Southwest or Hawaii, where Heubel had worked since leaving California a decade ago. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Heubel learned the chef’s trade at the Ventana Inn and Spa in Big Sur, Calif., and Pacific’s Edge Restaurant in nearby Carmel.

“You always want to get back … (to) the style of food and the places I’m most comfortable with.”

The Jacksonville Inn did force Heubel from the comfort zone he found in corporate climates. Every other establishment he’d worked in had been part of a larger hotel chain. The Jacksonville Inn was the first restaurant that promised Heubel an independent and hands-on owner.

“You could always hide in a big, corporate environment,” Heubel says.

Landing an interview with two other applicants in April, Heubel had no intention of blending in. The five-course menu he prepared for Evans — paired with wines from the inn’s list of more than 2,000 — featured all-new dishes. Not one to fall back on the familiar, Heubel conceived each plate to showcase his skills handling ingredients such as scallops, lamb and quail eggs, as well as peak-season produce like peas, asparagus and strawberries.

“It was spectacular,” says Evans.

Although impressed, Evans had no intention of making over the inn’s mainstay menu of some 15 customer favorites, including prime rib and veal scallopini based on a 50-year-old recipe. Heubel’s contribution to the menu is a new section of three “chef’s specialties.”

From these specialities, diners can choose pan-seared salmon with Dungeness crab-filled ravioli and a sauce of caramelized fennel and chardonnay for $28.95; crispy potato-wrapped Pacific snapper with a salad of field greens, charred cherry tomatoes, basil and olives for $21.95; and a vegetarian dish, that Heubel likes to call a celebration of Rogue Valley vegetables with its grilled corn and pineapple salad, citrus couscous and a chevre croquette, for $18.95.

While weekly specials such as sesame-crusted ahi tuna with a salad of black beans, ginger and lemon will rotate into the chef’s specialties section based on customers response, Heubel says he admires the inn too much to advocate drastic change.

“It has such a great core menu,” he says. “I just love older places “» that have a real sense of character behind them.”

Charming to most, the circa-1861 inn may prove somewhat challenging to the 6-foot-9-inch Heubel. Hunching over to avoid a thick ceiling beam in the inn’s cellar-level lounge, Heubel calls to mind a bear in its den. The kitchen is a bit of a squeeze, too, he says.

“The quarters are much tighter than anywhere else I’d worked, for sure.”

The inn looks to its kitchen staff to ameliorate any of the facility’s shortcomings. Heubel says he found his co-workers’ level of skill and knowledge “surprisingly high.” Many employees have been with the inn for a decade, some longer.

“We’ve had the same group of line cooks in the kitchen for many years,” Evans says. “So it’s not that we were in a bind.”

Since chef Tim Keller left the inn for the Carriage House Restaurant at Nunan Estate, also in Jacksonville, Evans saw a lapse in culinary creativity. Evans says he also wanted to tighten controls on purchasing, even more necessary in this demanding economy. Secure in the knowledge that the kitchen was in good hands, the 73-year-old owner could take a few more hours off every day.

Heubel, Evans says, has surpassed his expectations, first driving for three days through “horrible weather” with the goal of arriving in Jacksonville to work on Mother’s Day. The chef has since worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week, Evans says, “with a smile on his face.

“That can be contagious.”

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