Our Favorite Cooking Tips from Stoller Family Estate's Executive Chef

Becca Richards, Stoller Vineyard's culinary director and executive chef, prides herself on simple ingredients and excellent wine pairings. But, in the boy’s club of New York City restaurants, where she began her career, her choices were often frowned upon.

“It was almost shocking to me how well received my style was here, because in New York, it was downplayed,” Richards said. “I had to butch my stuff up instead.”

Here is some of her advice on how to have a wine-focused meal that creates big wows with easy, seasonal ingredients. 

Work with Wine in Unexpected Ways

Richards came into her interview with a unique vision that blew away Stoller’s management.
“When I was doing my tasting, they had me do certain dishes and then wine pair them myself. The winemakers disagreed with me on three pairings,” Richards said. “When they tasted their own pairings, they realized they were wrong and agreed with mine. The next day, I had the job.”

Keep it Simple

By making a seasonal ingredient the star of a dish, Richards showcases seasonal produce and meats, coupled with Stoller’s versatile wines, blended by Stoller's director of winemaking, Melissa Burr.

“It’s been crazy the compliments that I’ve gotten from guests,” Richards said. “The way that my food interacts with Melissa’s wines is a dream pairing, because it’s bold enough to be modern, but it’s got a feminine flair that runs through it.”

One of Richards’ favorite techniques is to compress fruit in the wine, which makes the fruit burst with its own natural flavors and the bouquet of wine. In one of her favorite dishes recently, Richards roasted peaches, then cold cooked them in riesling and compressed them.

If you don’t have a compressor or vacuum sealer at home, you can make cold cooked fruit by soaking the fruit in your chosen wine, then draining the liquids and placing it in a ziplock bag. Press out as much air as you can, then freeze overnight. Take the fruit out and thaw, and be amazed by the change in texture! Get the step-by-step here.

For her compressed, roasted peaches, Richards mixed them with watermelon, basil and feta to create a unique take on a fruit salad!

When in Doubt, Go for Pinot.

Both Richards and Burr noted that their Pinot noir, a standby favorite in the Willamette Valley, is a great choice for almost all meals. 

“Pinot noir goes with any meal, because of its acidity,” Burr said. “The tannin levels aren’t so exuberant, so it doesn’t need a steak dinner to hold that taste.”

Don't Stop Pushing

For women who aspire to take their culinary creations out of the kitchen and into the professional culinary world, Richards encourages you to fight hard for the decisions you know.

“Don’t lose hope. If you come up against the barrier, push back,” Richards said. “If you let your guard down, you don’t push back, they’re going to let you stay there and they’ll happily let you stay there. You’ve gotta take a stand.”