Founder: Richard Haake
Chef Richard Haake’s profound passion for wine and food was sparked while attending the prestigious New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. During a workshop exploring the reactions between wine and food, he was astounded by the familiar flavor of Reese’s Pieces candy on his palate after tasting the combination of Hershey’s milk chocolate, Roquefort, and Château d’Yquem. This pivotal moment would forever change his relationship with wine and food, and ultimately lend shape to his career. Following graduation in the winter of 1997, Richard pursued his newfound passion and moved to the Napa Valley wine country, the epicenter for wine and food in America. Fueled with dreams of becoming a Napa Valley chef and a fervent desire to expand his culinary knowledge, he simultaneously assumed full-time positions in the kitchens of Terra and Pinot Blanc.
Hard work and dedication earned Haake a promotion to sous chef at Pinot Blanc just one year later. Teaming up with friend and executive chef Sean Knight, Richard established himself as a leader while assisting in managing the culinary team at the 180 seat Napa Valley restaurant. The time spent at Pinot Blanc gave Richard tremendous exposure to the wines of Napa Valley, and enabled him the opportunity to cultivate his wine knowledge while crafting meals to complement the restaurant’s immense wine list as well as wines provided by guests. During Richard’s service at Pinot Blanc, the restaurant was awarded three stars from San Francisco Chronicle’s infamous food critic Michael Bauer, and was named one of Robert Parker’s top dining experiences of 1999.
In the fall of 2001, Richard found a new home at the critically acclaimed Cakebread Cellars, renowned for its culinary programs and commitment to producing food-friendly wines. Alongside culinary director Brian Streeter and the Cakebread family, he dedicated five years developing recipes, culinary programs, events and cooking classes to meet the winery’s brand goals. His time at Cakebread offered the opportunity to do more than merely cook. Richard learned about the daily operations of the winery’s visitor center and tasting room, worked in the wine cellar assisting in production, and was even afforded the opportunity to travel internationally promoting Cakebread wines in countries such as Japan, Korea and India.
After a competitive four month application process in the spring of 2006, Richard was offered the executive chef position at Robert Mondavi Winery. During his tenure, Richard managed the culinary programs and events that took place in the Vineyard Room, a venue central to Mr. Mondavi’s passion for sharing wine, food and art with guests. In addition, he oversaw the cuisine for several memorable events including the Summer Concerts, Great Chefs Program, Taste3, the winery’s 40th anniversary celebration, and the passing of it’s iconic founder Robert Mondavi.
On March 3, 2015 Richard sold Winery Chefs to Fox Ganssle Investments. Currently Richard is back home in the South beginning a new chapter in his life that includes more time with family and friends. He would like to thank everyone who has supported him through the years from countless employees, clients, family and friends. Richard said it best, “there isn’t a better place in the country to cook, the combination of great ingredients with an audience that has a passion for wine and food makes Napa the perfect place to be a chef”. Look for updates on Richards next chapter later this year at this website.