YOUNTVILLE, CALIF.—Bardessono Hotel, the luxurious, LEED Platinum Certified wine country retreat in the heart of Napa Valley, introduces a fresh take on Lucy restaurant’s celebrated signature cuisine with the addition of Jim Leiken as Executive Chef. Bringing a repertoire of experience working with some of the world’s most renowned chefs, from Chef Daniel Boulud’s New York City and Palm Beach, Fla. restaurants, Leiken spent the past five years cultivating a deep understanding of the culinary scene in Napa at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena, with Chef Cindy Pawlcyn. Now taking the helm of Lucy restaurant with careful attention and finesse to the menu and offerings that anchor the Lucy legacy at Bardessono and in the Yountville community, Chef Leiken’s experience in notable destination restaurants will lend to the impressive fine dining experience at Bardessono.
“Jim’s unique knowledge of the upscale culinary industry, specifically within the destination, is a treasure and is reflected in his creatively and thoughtfully curated menu items. We’re excited to see Lucy restaurant thrive with his impeccable taste and have found a natural synergy between his love for locally grown ingredients and resources and the famed Lucy legacy,” said Sileshi Mingiste, Associate Senior Vice President of Remington Luxury Division.
A native New Yorker growing up just outside of New York City, Leiken’s culinary journey began with an affinity for gardening, growing through experiential training, melding the cultures and cuisines that are found throughout the city. Inspired by the level of refinement and artistry with food he observed, Leiken pursued his passion for cooking for 15 years in New York City, climbing the ladder from line cook at March Restaurant and Chef Daniel Boulud’s Restaurant Daniel under Executive Chefs Jean-Francois Bruel and Alex Lee to executive sous chef at DB Bistro Moderne and eventually running his own kitchens as executive chef at DBGB Kitchen & Bar in Manhattan and Café Boulud Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. Moving to Napa over five years ago with his wife, former pastry chef Candice Chia, and young twins Charlie and Maggie, Leiken continued his career at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena, managing all aspects of Cindy Pawlcyn’s 170-seat, upscale, chef-driven wine country destination, where he successfully drove the destination service with responsible cooking and a dynamic menu.
Cooking Class Launched Interest
Chef Leiken became interested in food during high school, but it wasn’t until an intensive five-week cooking class at the New School in New York City for passionate amateurs following his graduation as a history major from Wesleyan University that his affinity for culinary took off. Accepting an externship at March Restaurant after the career-changing cooking class, Leiken was hooked by Chef Wayne Nish’s progressive Asian fusion jewel box on the Upper East Side. Exhausting, yet intoxicating work, Leiken was enamored by the culture of a high-level kitchen and found himself working with incredibly passionate people who demanded excellence and pushed themselves and each other to transcend levels of standard culinary experiences and artistry. Leiken warmly recalls an early career encounter with Missy Robbins, rolling and re-rolling lamb-stuffed cannelloni numerous times until it was finally right. Leiken’s experience can be defined by the time in the industry when he could knock on the back door of a three- or four-star kitchen, offer to work for free, and learn directly from some of the most important chefs in the country.
“When you have amazing ingredients at their peak, all you need to help them shine is careful technique, respect for the people who make them, and an appreciation of how they fit into culinary traditions, both past and present,” says Chef Leiken. “A chef’s job is to find those great ingredients and make them dance on the plate and on the palate; this is what I’m focused on at Lucy. I want to share with our guests the excitement I feel every morning after a walk through the garden or in seeing what the farmer, butcher or fishmonger has brought through the kitchen door.”
Striking the delicate balance between sustainable innovation and timeless luxury, Bardessono Hotel & Spa blends a sleek aesthetic with a deep “green,” eco-spirit instilled by the matriarch of the Bardessono family, Lucy Bardessono. Lucy’s penchant for farming, a passion she cultivated on the historic Bardessono grounds in the 1920s, has motivated the culinary ethics and offerings of today’s Lucy Restaurant & Bar, the signature restaurant of Bardessono. Chef Leiken’s mindful approach to cuisine is appreciated in his unique preparation of plates, focusing first and foremost on respecting the ingredients in each dish and showcasing them in their best light.