We like to think that when you come to the theatre you become part of our family. It doesn’t matter if you are joining us for one night or you are joining us for the whole season. Just across the street, the large windows of Wood and Vine reflect the bright neon lights of the Hollywood Pantages, and inside another family is hard at work.
In January, Natalie Soward will become the head of her family when she officially takes over the menu as Wood and Vine’s New Executive Chef. Like many in her profession, Soward started as a Junior Sous Chef and worked her way up the ranks, learning from the former Executive Chef and adding her own flair to the menu from time to time. The promotion comes with a little extra paperwork and a lot more responsibility for Soward, but the best part is that she gets to create a whole new menu of her own.
“Because I’m from the South, I want to aim more towards Southern food. I’m all about comfort food,” Natalie explains as she describes her new menu ideas. Soward grew up in Louisiana, 2 hours outside of New Orleans. She remembers waking up every morning to the smell of gumbo or some other classic southern dish. Her mother, a teacher, would prep meals in the morning so that she could have them ready to go for dinner that night. “Growing up, my whole life revolved around food.”
Upon graduating high school, she decided to head to college to pursue a degree in graphic design. “I’ve always been an artist. I have my degree in fine arts, graphic design, and the culinary arts. I worked behind a desk for a while, but it just wasn’t for me.”
Soward got started at Wood and Vine when the chef at the time, someone she had worked with previously, reached out for some help in the kitchen.”The thing that really sold me on this place is that it’s like one big family. We take care of each other and help each other out. This is why I’m still here two years later,” Soward explains. As she talks about her work family, it is clear that the love is not contained just to the kitchen but spills out into the dining area filled with guests servers and bartenders.
“I do it for the art of the food. The nostalgic emotional part of the food because that’s how I was raised. Every celebration and every happy moment revolved around the food. A server came into the kitchen and said that a customer who had been a chef for 20 years said the chicken pot pie was the best she had had in her life. Hearing that makes all of the hard work worth it.”
Soward plans to change up the menu in January to include possible dishes like gumbo, home-style spaghetti, B-B-Q dumplings and more. She also wants to open up the restaurant for craw-fish boils as well as beer and wine tastings. Wood and Vine loves to host Holiday parties, birthday parties, showers and more. “We want people to come make memories here. After all, how many times do we celebrate something and food isn’t involved?”
We are so happy that Soward found her place just across the street from the Pantages where seeing a show can create lasting memories, much like the food she is so passionate about. “I love walking through the restaurant and seeing that elderly couple sharing their food, or watching someone take that first bite. It’s how people gain their experiences.”
From our family to yours; Congratulations, Natalie, on your promotion. We look forward to all of the yumminess you have in store for us! To make some memories of your own, visit www.woodandvine.com for reservations, hours, menu and parking information.