Nearly a year ago, El Gaucho Hospitality and Chef Jason Wilson formed a partnership to combine strengths and create a company dedicated to providing exceptional experiences for our guests. The company, now known as Fire & Vine Hospitality, opened two new properties, The Lakehouse and Civility & Unrest this year. All properties, including Miller’s Guild, have been integrated into The Revelers Club loyalty program. 2018 will be a year of growth, beginning with the opening of Eritage, an intimate Walla Walla wine country resort and restaurant.
We sat down with Chad Mackay and Chef Jason Wilson for some insight and perspective (and lots of laughter).
It has been about a year since this partnership was officially created. How are things going?
CJW – Truly, it is far better than I could have anticipated. Being part of a team that is so closely aligned with where I want to be personally and professionally has been a breath of fresh air for me. It allows me to focus on where I am and what I want to do.
CM: I knew it was going to be good but at the time I wasn’t entirely sure exactly what it would look like. It has evolved and fallen into place very comfortably for us and for our team. Our partnership has allowed us to combine our knowledge and experience to create something better than either of us could have done on our own.
What have been some highlights?
CM: We had a great experience at El Gaucho Portland where Jason and Chef Steve Cain were working together on some really special dishes for an event and just watching that interaction and cultivating of our talented team was really inspiring for me.
CJW: I have had so much fun engaging and working with the chefs from each of the restaurants – building those relationships has been incredible. Also, opening The Lakehouse and Civility & Unrest would have been much more challenging without the support of this team. I feel like I can do what needs to be done more effectively and with great optimism.
Have there been some challenges?
CM: There are always going to be challenges! Jason and I both love to build ambitious restaurants and that is always going to push us and our teams. Building this organization together gives us the capacity to withstand and embrace the obstacles and the inevitable changes that come along.
CJW: My son said something the other day that struck me: We grow when we are challenged. Working together gives us the ability and confidence to seek change and challenges. I came in to this very established team and the level of humanity and open communication allows us to make mistakes, learn from them and build something stronger.
What have you learned from each other and about each other?
CJW: Chad brings this wealth of business knowledge and an innovative approach to look at a scenario, break it down and put it back together so that it works better. He is also a humanitarian – not just in the way that he is dedicated to helping the community but in the way he interacts with people and that spirit that he has instilled in everyone in his team. When I first met him years ago, I was struck by his calmness and confidence. I respect him equally personally and professionally. And he is a great pilot.
CM: I can’t think of anyone else that I could have done this with. Jason has the heart of a teacher and is a non-ego-centric person. Plus he is just super talented. He has this methodical, almost scientific approach when he is building a dish. He can take an ingredient or an existing dish and compel it to be more than it is. There is this constant drive for creativity and improvement. He has taught me a lot about hockey!
How has your team evolved and grown from this partnership?
CM: We have done some transfers and cross hires which has helped with communication and expanded relationships. It has happened pretty naturally and quickly when you think about the fact that The Lakehouse and Civility & Unrest opened in June and it’s only November! There is a lot of collaboration and respect among the teams.
CJW: I think that people feel like they are part of something bigger. There is this level of integration and collaboration that has been great to see. (Director of Operations) Cooper Mills has been with El Gaucho for years but has fully embraced The Lakehouse, Civility & Unrest and Miller’s Guild as his own.
What can people expect to see next?
CM: First we are looking forward to celebrating the holidays with our guests, friends and families. Next up is Eritage opening in Walla Walla this winter. It is going to be something really special and we are can’t wait to share it with everyone.
CJW: Eritage will be our first joint project from the ground up and is a huge source of inspiration. We are focused on building our bench so that we can seek out and take advantage of opportunities like Eritage. We want to be able to seed and nurture the great ideas with a team that is excited to be part of something big!
CM: 2018 is going to be big!