Meet the Chef of Blue Mountain Bistro, Richard Erickson
When “feel good food” is what you’re after, look no further than Blue Mountain Bistro catering and Bistro-To-Go. Today’s MEET THE CHEF exclusive interview is with Richard Erickson, co-founder and Chef of one of the busiest, award-winning food establishments on route 28. Known for homemade comfort food, Bistro-To-Go serves delicious daily specials and take-out oven-ready meals; and features an artisan food market with an array of local and International delicacies. Richard and his team also run Blue Mountain Bistro, a local favorite for catering special events and galas. When locals and weekenders want to entertain friends and family at home but don’t feel like cooking we speed dial Chef Ericson. Let’s learn more about the man behind the success of Blue Mountian Bistro!
Inside+Out: Tell us about yourself: Where are you originally from and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
Chef Richard Erickson: I was raised in the Midwest and spent a number of years traveling and working in Europe and Asia before finally settling in NYC. We had been visiting friends on weekends and really liked the area. One day a close friend called to say his mother was about to buy an old barn in Woodstock so she could retire and paint. He came to look at it and promptly told her she was crazy, the place was a wreck and only fit for someone much younger. He then called us and said what a good deal it was, we should go check it out. We hadn’t been out of the city in months, had never looked at real estate, and used that as an excuse to go for a drive in the country. Long story short, we never looked at anything else, maxed out our credit cards, and took the leap. At that time the mortgage was 12-13%. My mother burst into tears when she saw it for the first time.
What inspired you to become a chef and what was your journey?
I kept finding myself in restaurants still trying to figure out what I was going to do when I grew up. By that time I was over 30 years old, I liked the international and multi-cultural aspect that restaurant life provided and how quickly co-workers felt like family. After working as a dishwasher, waiter and bartender, I decided the kitchen was definitely where I wanted to be. I had always loved cooking and had learned about food by sharing meals with people in many different cultures. I feel that’s what has really carried me through many years, curiosity and respect for how people eat.
What is the draw of Bistro-to-Go and what do you do to keep things “fresh?
The draw is take-out that tastes like dining out, which is also one of our tag lines. Consistency along with changing specials is another draw. Teaching others what I know
and do keeps me on my toes.
As the owner, who or what inspires your menu?
I am constantly inspired by our customers who ask for or remind me of something I haven’t made in a while. I’ve even been challenged to do dishes I wouldn’t have thought possible in a take-out situation. I made a pretty authentic cassoulet a few months back, confit and all.
You had a restaurant in Woodstock called the Blue Mountain Bistro. Is this business easier than running a restaurant?
No, but it’s more fun!
The restaurant industry has seen much change and disruption with Covid. How are you adapting; is there a silver lining here?
We tightened our belts as I’m sure many did. We are paying people more now than ever which is a good thing. I know this sounds strange coming from an owner but the pay disparities in this industry have and continue to be a problem. Many people have attempted to address these issues and so far I think it’s fair to say all have failed.
How do you inspire your staff? What is your company’s “culture?”
Our culture is “Feel Good Food” which calls on us to feel good making it, serving it, and sharing it. Sounds corny perhaps but I truly think everyone feels it. I like to think I inspire by just working shoulder to shoulder with anyone doing any job to keep the whole show running. Those who don’t feel it vibrate out. We also celebrate everyone’s birthdays and try to make everyone feel like a part of the “family”.
What do you love most about living + working in the Hudson Valley?
Without a doubt the people. Four seasons, beautiful landscapes, but mostly the people. Interesting people doing and creating interesting and inspiring things. Always a pleasure to come back home to the Hudson Valley after traveling.
What impact does your business have on your community?
We help people who can no longer cook, who are recovering from illnesses, or who are just too busy to shop and cook. We support just about any local cause that asks us. We provide first jobs for many young people which instills confidence and values that I think will serve them going forward in any field they may choose. We also help with life’s most meaningful celebrations through food and service. It has been an honor and we are grateful.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
Newspapers and magazines, radio stations, print shops and sign makers, farmers and makers of food-related products. The list goes on but you get the idea, just about anything local.
What is your favorite thing to eat/cook when you’re home alone or with your family?
Hard to beat a roast chicken and it’s fun to see what else can be done with the leftovers.
Tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to learn.
After college, I once worked on riverboats pushing barges up and down the Mississippi river. The chefs were invariably from New Orleans and we ate exceptionally well! Earned enough to buy an Icelandic Air ticket to Europe then sold my plane ticket home and kept going for six years. Learned about food by sitting down and eating with others, everywhere.
Name three things you always have in your fridge/pantry.
A good jam. Portuguese sardines. Good bread.
What was the best dish or meal you’ve ever had and who made it?
A huge bowl of mussels and fresh skate in Nice, fresh off an overnight flight. (I’m sure it had something to do with jet lag but Mary Anne and I both still reference it.)
What’s missing in the area that you wish we had?
Less and less that’s for sure. A shoe repair shop, but one could probably say that of just about everywhere these days.
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Bistro to Go
948 State Route 28, Kingston, NY
Cater your next event with Blue Mountain Bistro
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Read all of Inside+Out’s MEET THE CHEF SERIES
Chef Jesse Frederick | Butterfield Restaurant at Hasbrouck House| Stone Ridge NY
Chef Corwin Kave | Deer Mountain Inn | Tannerville NY
Chef Alex Napolitano | Prospect at Scribners | Hunter NY
Chef Clare Hussain| Runa | New Paltz NY
Chef Christoper Weathered | Mill & Main | Kerhonkson NY
Chef Elizabeth Steckel and Dirk Schalle | The Gunk Haus | Highland NY
Chef Wyatt Jaster | The Pines | Mount Tremper NY
Chef Cheryl Paff and Chef Juan Tzitzimititila | Black-Eyed Suzie’s | Kingston NY
Chef Francesco Buitoni | GioBatta Alimentari | Tivoli NY
Chef Tony Moustakes | City Winery Hudson Valley | Montgomery NY
Chef Doris Choi | Silvia | Woodstock NY
Chef Richard Erickson | Blue Mountain Bistro & Bistro To Go | Kingston NY
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