Story By: Fran Miller // Photos By: Darren Brazil
NAPA’S NEWEST CATCH
The last couple of years have been challenging for everyone, particularly for small business owners in the restaurant industry, such as Ali and Ben Koenig. But for this dynamic duo, those challenges have been met with a healthy perspective on what matters most and a resolve to continue serving the Napa community.
As proprietors of popular Heritage Eats and the Best Food Truck Ever, the Koenigs not only kept their culinary businesses solvent and cohesive during tumultuous times, they added yet another to their growing gastronomic empire – Napa Valley Lobster Co. The iconic, traditional ‘Southern-style lobster boil’ concept introduced to the Napa Valley by Ines Chiarello is enjoying new, post-COVID life with the Koenigs, who have partnered with Chiarello and business partner Charles Whittaker in reinvigorating the concept.
As East Coast transplants (the Koenig’s and Chiarello from New Jersey and Whittaker from upstate New York), the crew bonded with a shared vision for how to expand the company that specializes in classic, hands-on dining experiences where the feast (Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp, Louisiana hot links, sweet corn, red potatoes, whole artichokes, and fresh-baked bread) is literally ‘poured’ onto a parchment-lined table.
“The best thing about working with the Koenigs and the Napa Valley Lobster Co. is that I’ve circled back to where I began in this business, being able to schmooze with folks while doing what I love most, but not having the back end responsibilities, said Chiarello. “It’s kind of flirting with retirement, which is a perfect fit for me.”
“Ines has been very helpful in passing the torch to our company,” said Ben. “She has enjoyed showing us the tricks of the trade and seeing our team and business evolve with her guidance and wisdom. We are honored and thrilled to now be Napa Valley’s premier option for these hallmark occasions, and we have been overwhelmed by the response and can’t wait to grow this brand.”
Chiarello’s expertise was in large-scale (100+), ‘annual style’ events with some of Napa Valley’s most prestigious and iconic properties. Napa Valley Lobster Co. will carry on this tradition, in addition to creating smaller dinner packages that serve four to six.
“We truly think the sky is the limit and think that this type of experience has broad appeal. We are excited to announce our first licensing agreement in Dallas, TX. Our goal is to bring the beauty and simplicity of the Napa Valley Lobster Co. culinary and hospitality approach to people around the country through the forging of strong, local partnerships with proven operators.” said Whittaker. Koenig is quick to acknowledge the strength of his team as the reason for his and Ali’s continued success. “We have had some amazing team members since we started our company more than six years ago. Unanticipated hardships have brought us even closer to our team and have made us appreciate what they do for our businesses even more.”