Richard Reddington, the executive chef and owner of Redd, one of the hautest restaurants in Yountville, is called “the most-loved bad boy in Napa Valley” by the locals who adore him. Vintners and wine executives flock to the elegant Redd, a restaurant that is as noted for its five-course tasting menu as it is the chicken wings at its popular bar. They also gather at Redd Wood, the casual, Italian-inspired eatery that he opened three years ago as well. Nearly every day he can be found at both of his restaurants. He learned the importance of being present from Wolfgang Puck, just one of the prestigious chefs he worked for during a 15-year period spent on both coasts as well as in France. “When we opened Spago [Beverly Hills, Puck] was there every night,” says Reddington, who, at that time, was the eatery’s sous chef. “He knows every guest—and what they eat. He is very philanthropic as well.” The same can be said of Reddington, who has frequently been a featured chef at Auction Napa Valley and will reprise his participation again this June. We recently sat down with him at Redd and couldn’t resist asking him about his reputation.
Why are you called “the most-loved bad boy in Napa Valley?”
Bad boy? I think I have a reputation in the kitchen. Because I came out of French kitchens, I’m a little stricter [and] the service is a little more vocal. I’m trying to get away from that. I want to say the most loved part is because I’m here and I’m present. I know who’s eating at Redd Wood today for lunch. I was there last night. I’m doing a lot of the charity stuff. I travel with a lot of the vintners to do charities elsewhere. A lot of their causes I’ve sort of adopted as well. I guess I like that description. I’m definitely known to be out and about. I’m a night owl. I really can’t sleep.
What are you doing for Auction Napa Valley this year?
I do the dinner every year at Naoko Dalla Valle’s house. She’s a good friend. Their wines are great. She always wants squab. Her best wine is Maya; it’s a cabernet/cab franc blend. It’s very intimate, like 16 people. Then I go to the tents [on Saturday] and have a blast with Christopher Kostow [of The Restaurant at Meadowood]. We’re either working or partying. We usually hang out and cause trouble. It’s a great event and kicks off the season, too.
You’re a New Yorker. Did you expect to be in Yountville for 10 years?
I thought I’d be up here for two years. I love cities. Auberge [du Soleil, where he was the executive chef from 2000-04] ended abruptly. I was there four years and that was enough. Thomas Keller and I almost worked out a deal. It was in those talks of negotiating to go to The French Laundry while he opened up Per Se that he said, “Richard, stay in Napa, you’ve got a great name.” I’m so glad that I did. It’s been 10 great, fun, long years.
What’s the one dish you’ll never take off your menu at Redd?
The scallop dish with cauliflower, caper raisin and almond. When I was at Arpège [a restaurant in Paris that went from a two-to three-Michelin starred eatery while he was there], we had a scallop dish with grilled cauliflower and a caper raisin emulsion. You come back and try to think of new dishes. I made a cauliflower purée and added balsamic vinegar to it; people just loved it.
When are you going to open a place in San Francisco?
I would love to have a place in San Francisco. I would say in three years. I don’t know if it’s going to be a restaurant or a bar, but I’m going to have something. I’m talking to some other chefs about doing something. David Kinch [of Manresa] and I have always talked about doing something in the city together because Los Gatos is 53 miles from San Francisco and Yountville is 53 miles from San Francisco. We’re going to call it 53 and do a bar. I would love to have a presence down there and diversify.