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From farmers markets to Oxbow Public Market and soon his own brick-and-mortar location in the Rail Arts District, chef Darryl Bell is sealing his name in Napa’s internationally acclaimed hospitality scene.
The Kanas-born and raised chef recently piloted Oxbow’s new Chef-in-Residency program in October through a collaboration between the market and Milestone Provisions (formerly known as Five Dot Ranch) to bring a taste of his highly-anticipated Kansas City-inspired barbecue concept, Stateline Road Smokehouse, to the locals and tourists prior to its permanent location opening in the spring of 2024.
“New to Oxbow Public Market, our Chef-in-Residency program is a winning strategy for all involved,” explains Gabe Carlin, market manager at Oxbow Public Market. “While similar to a pop-up shop, a ‘chef in residence’ takes the idea to a new, much more exclusive level.
He continues, “It allows us to curate the very best new talent in the area, introducing our guests to popular up-and-coming brands, and it allows each restaurateur that utilizes the program to test the waters in the Napa Valley market. We are thrilled to extend the opportunity for these kinds of creative collaborations to the market.”
The chef-in-residency program will provide restaurateurs with a fully equipped kitchen and a shared walk-in refrigerator/freezer in the 800-square-foot space previously occupied by the temporary chef-in-residence pilot program between Milestone Provisions and Stateline Road Smokehouse.
Beginning in February or March 2024, the marketplace will make the space available again to new burgeoning restaurant concepts. Through the program, restaurateurs interested in testing the market will have the opportunity to occupy the space temporarily, ranging from three to six months.
From Kansas to Napa
Bell arrived in Napa after living in France following culinary school back in Kanas City, Missouri, with one goal in mind; working for chef Thomas Keller. He accepted the opportunity to stage at Keller’s highly-acclaimed restaurant serving authentic French fare, Bouchon, before before added to the staff roster and working there for the next seven years.
While there, he honed his talents on both the savory and sweet side. While preparing family meals for staff, chicken was regularly on the menu, so Bell began making a barbecue sauce he grew up with that put Kansas City on the food map.
“All the chefs were like going crazy for it and I kept tweaking it over like the next two months, every week just like getting better and better,” he says.
Offering a little into Stateline Road Smokehouse’s flagship product, he shares it is tomato and vinegar-based, staying true to his Kansas roots.
Fans of the barbecue sauce that was initially called 816 BBQ include Keller himself, who became one of Bell’s food service orders, adding it to the lineup on his Seabourn cruise line restaurants.
Bell briefly sold the sauces in nine stores and at farmers markets where he began building his consumer base. The Stateline Road Smokehouse lineup has since been expanded to include a brine, dry rub and black truffle barbecue sauce.
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Stateline Road Smokehouse Approach to Authentic Kansas BBQ
An early morning stroll through Oxbow will eventually have you stopping in front of Bell’s temporary post as the chef and his team prepare for the day.
Smoked meats and freshly made sides and beverages are all being put in their place for what most likely will be a busy day.
“Taken more of a chef approach on it, in kitchens we are always trying to evolve not just the food but every aspect of it; what the guest experience is, everything in how we approach it,” says Bell about the vision behind Stateline Road Smokehouse.
While you have to wait until next spring to experience the full Stateline Road Smokehouse menu, you won’t be too disappointed with what Bell and his team are serving up at Oxbow in the meantime.
The abbreviated menu curated just for this chef-in-residency program includes Kansas City-invented burnt ends that are double smoked, Stateline Road baby back ribs and BBQ half chicken for protein and cherrywood-smoked maitake & greens for those wanting something plant-based, along with a Yukon golden potato salad and seasoned curly fries with a chive aioli for sides.
Bell shares that Stateline Road Smokehouse will be at Oxbow through January and possibly February as the final permits and touches are being ironed out for the permanent location at 872 Vallejo Street.
For the Michelin-trained chef who followed his dreams to California in 2009, the journey ahead as a restauranteur couldn’t be more exciting. Staying true to his artistry as a chef as well as a Kansas City native, he says, “I would be bored to do what has always been done. I would not leave Press or leave any other nice restaurant to do barbecue if it is a barbecue that’s been done before.”
Oxbow Public Market is located at 610 and 644 First Street in Napa and is open daily from 7:30 am – 9 pm. Stateline Road Smokehouse is open Thursday – Sunday from 12 pm until sold out.
Bell’s sauces are available at Oxbow and on the restaurant’s website. Be sure to also follow Stateline Road Smokehouse on Instagram for Oxbow updates and the opening of the Vallejo Street location in 2024.