In January of 2008, Cameo Heights Mansion was born and with it The Vine was created as our dinner restaurant for guests of the B&B. It began with simple good food prepared and served by us, Deanne and Alan Fielding, the owners, exclusively to the guests of Cameo Heights Mansion. It was a steep learning curve for us as we entered the hospitality and restaurant business suddenly after a lifetime of farming. But we had a heart and passion for warm hospitality and good food. Requests to come and enjoy dinner, without staying at the inn, soon followed. Initially, we were not permitted and licensed as a public restaurant.
Eventually, zoning hurdles were overcome and necessary permits were secured and “The Vine” opened as a public restaurant in the spring of 2010. We realized at the outset, that this new step would require a dedicated chef so we hired a well-known and respected local chef in Penny Addison as our head chef. Our business quickly grew as we established seasonal menus of dishes that created lots of happy return customers. Her style of cuisine might best be described as “homestyle dining at its very best.”
But Penny is a lot like Alan: after a few years, she grew weary of doing the same thing every day. She needed a break — Hawaii was calling her name. So after four years or so, she suddenly announced she was leaving.
We were, of course, anxious about the prospects of hiring a new chef but at the same time we thought it an appropriate opportunity to make a move in a different direction. Using Craig’s list as our advertising bureau, we were led to several applicants, some from far away, who answered our quest for a chef who could introduce us to the world of fine dining. After a few “stages” with different chefs, we were elated to hire Chef Nathan Carlson. Under his watch, we transitioned into a completely new style of menu and dinner offering. We rebranded the restaurant as “The Vine Fine Dining” and announced to our world of diners that new dining style would be fine dining and our menu style would be a modified prix fixe.
Guests immediately loved Nathan and his creative cuisines. We rather quickly emerged as the place to go for fine dining in Walla Walla, which, for this town of wine and fine dining, is no small statement. Chef Nathan worked his magic at The Vine Fine Dining for almost 6 years. We were often the highest rated on OpenTable measured across all the states of the Union.
Then along came COVID 19. Like many establishments we voluntarily shut our doors — for about 45 days. Luckily for us, the hotel industry was considered an essential business by Washington state and, when opened, were authorized to feed our guests, provided we followed the safety protocols. After taking advantage of the time we were down to make necessary adjustments in our sanitization and cleaning protocols to assure the safety and wellbeing of our customers during the COVID pandemic, and receiving the blessing of our county health department, we determined the time was right to reopen. You can imagine our disappointment when a very cautious Nathan, concerned that is was still too premature to reopen, was led to make the decision to leave our employ in the spring of 2020.
Back to Craig’s list again! So in late April, after another national search using sites in key metropolitan areas of the nation, we were grateful to discover and hire Chef Kelly Siner from California as our new head chef. Chef Kelly was with us for over a year. He is a very talented chef. On the strength of his flavorful cuisine we were even able to grow the restaurant bookings, even though COVID caused us to employ creative table settings in diverse rooms, many settings out doors with walls and heaters, to maintain the required separation. (Fortunately, for us, in outdoor dining, if you had adequate separation, it was not limited in capacity.)
But Chef Kelly, with all his former experience in large restaurants, was not used to functioning in a more intimate setting. He never seemed to be at peace being the solitary chef, doing all the cooking, prepping, and purchasing of supplies, etc. He yearned to function more as an executive chef overseeing the production. That didn’t work for us, so it was that in July on 2021, we found ourselves on the hunt again for a new chef.
This time we hired an expensive national recruitment agency to help locate our new chef. We wanted the best money could hire. Would you believe that it turned out to be a local boy? We hit gold the fourth time when we found and hired Chef Rich Koby of Walla Walla. He has sterling credentials and broad training with outstanding chefs. Most recently he had worked as a self-employed chef in Walla Walla when he and his wife ran the Fat Duck from 2013-2019 where they featured weekly fine dining with a very loyal “supper club” following.
Never have we been happier and more optimistic of our potential than with him as our new head chef. It is always difficult when departing chefs have created niches with customers who love their particular and unique style and flavors of food preparation, but we are persuaded that Chef Koby will quickly garner the trust, respect, and avid following of new and all our returning customers. His food is beautiful and delicious.
So it is that with some of the best chefs possible as our guide, we have slowly evolved and secured our place in the competitive world of fine dining. As a result of our commitment to excellence in all aspects of hospitality, combined with the good fortune of hiring the extraordinarily talented chefs, The Vine Fine Dining continues to grow in recognition, accolades, and acclaim.
On the horizon, we have business plans to someday soon separate the restaurant physically from the Bed and Breakfast as a dedicated and completely independent public restaurant both for our lodging guests and for the general public.
Our goal is to grow our capacity to serve more customers and enhance our food services and offerings with the installation of new and better equipment. However, though we expect to continue growing, we are determined to maintain the same level of intimate fine dining that has set us apart from the crowd.