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Rick & Diana Boufford
Who are "we?"

The Dream, a restaurant?

Rick Boufford & Diana Sturtevant met working together at Bullock's South Coast Plaza in spring of 1977. He was 20 and she had just turned 18. One of their early ideas was the possibility of venturing into the restaurant industry. They began their training at Orange Coast College through both the business and culinary divisions. Their first restaurant experience began at The Ancient Mariner/Rusty Pelican company on Pacific Coast Hwy, in their hometown of Newport Beach, California. Rick started as a broiler cook with steaks, seafood and setting up plates on the line where well over 400 dinners on a Friday or Saturday were common. Diana started as a bookkeeper. But a new style of healthy food conscious dinning was beginning and soon Rick moved on to help open a newer concept called Good Earth Restaurant in Fashion Island. It was here Rick got exposed to; low-fat, veggie and working with all kinds of fruit. Meanwhile Diana began working in a number of unique ventures that would benefit them both later; waitressing, catering, and by working in upscale cookware shops like Fassero's and Piret's when she was assisting numerous chefs (Jacques Pepin, Betsy Moulton and others) in live cooking demonstrations.

Dress the part.

But fine dining was where Rick's heart was and he began sharing his love for European cuisine and more specifically, a multi-course sit down style of dining. Soon, he heard of a very successful and difficult to get into restaurant, that served a nine course sit down dinner, called The Hobbit in Orange. Putting on his best camel hair suit, Rick applied for anything in the kitchen, even content to start as a dishwasher just to get the experience from a restaurant already doing what he thought he'd like to do. Turns out that suit got him the position for "sous chef" and was very surprised to learn that suit was the determining factor in his being hired over another probably more well known up and coming young chef in the area. They became fast friends with owners Mike Philippi and JB and even though policy was against couples working together, over time they learned Diana's value and hired her to take reservations (the restaurant was booked solid 6 months in advance) and shortly after, as a server in the dining room.

Time of your life kid.

The Hobbit was by far the greatest experience a "want to own your restaurant" person could have. One single, 4 hour seating, consisting of nine courses, with a mostly European influenced menu that changed every week. Rick learned more under Chef Mike Philippi, (and his parents Howard and Beverly) than could ever be recorded but starting with the importance of not only each and every dish being seasoned to perfection, but everything on the dish had to marry with each other and it had to go with wine! The Philippi's loved food and they loved to serve people great food and wine. Needless to say, The Hobbit also had one of the world's greatest wine cellars, and it was here that Rick got to train for sommelier under "J B" (John Balesky), former Club 33 and Chez Cary sommelier, now Chef Mike's partner at The Hobbit.

The late1970's to the mid 1980's was also one the greatest growth periods in American restaurant dining history. Air fares dropped drastically, the dollar was strong and food and wine products the world over became not only more readily available, prices dropped. Famous chefs from Europe and Asia began opening restaurants. The California wine boom was just beginning to explode. It was a great time for fine dining and it was especially good in California where much of the world's best fruits, vegetables and nuts were grown. Diana and Rick married in 1979 and ended up working for The Hobbit just over 4 years, soaking up everything they could. They also opened a joint catering venture with The Hobbit, called The Hobbit Affair, which took the multi-course dining experience to individual homes. In 1982 they left for Europe.

Does it get any better?

May to November 1982 - Rick and Diana spent 6 months cooking and camping through nine different countries in Europe. 1982 happened to be one of the warmest years on record allowing them to trek close to 3,000 miles on their bicycles. During that time they meticulously studied the food and wines of each and every region and micro-climate they encountered. Their greatest joy was going to restaurants and sampling everything they could, then shopping in all the open air markets, finding and buying things they'd only heard about and then going back to the campground and creating multi-course dinners on their little "Camping Gaz-Bluet" burners based on what they had found in both the restaurants and the local markets. This allowed them to get a real "feel" for the uniqueness of the food and wine in each area they visited. Everywhere they went they encountered something new and the couple claims this is how they got their ideas for their "own restaurant" they hoped to one day open in California.

Seems the timing was also to their advantage, for it turns out that because of the sudden fall of the European currencies, this was also a time when the whole world was starting to be aware of Europe's great food and wine because many peoples in many places could afford what was previously considered way too expensive.

Gaining Experience

Returning home they continued their hands on small business experience. In January of 1983, Rick went to learn "the front of the house" and was hired as a sommelier for Alfredo's Ristorante in the South Coast Plaza Hotel and Diana went to work for a small family owned business brushing up on back end stuff like books, management and more. During this time Rick developed his "Wineline" education program for the staff at Alfredo's. In 1986, they both joined Chef Alan Greeley at his wonderfully eclectic "Golden Truffle" restaurant in Costa Mesa. Rick was hired to manage the front of the house, and Diana to serve, but because of the fast growing friendship between Rick and Alan, it's probably more accurate to say, Diana ended up doing both.

Second taste of freedom

Rick left the "Truffle" to expand The Wineline to a full time wine education school. He leased the downstairs wine bar at what just may be one of the world's greatest wine shops, Hi-Times Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa. For the next 3 years The Wineline offered one of the most comprehensive wine curriculums with up to a dozen different wine classes a week. They continued their travels back and forth to Europe and this provided them with hands on experiences in many of the world's greatest wine regions. They loved being able to pass this on through narrated live slide productions, the pre-curser to the power point. Then in 1989, days before Rick and Diana were heading off on one of their trips to Spain (where they were going to research Spanish wines and more specifically Paella!) they went to visit and have dinner with long time friends Tom & Maribeth Harrison at the restaurant they had opened in 1985, The Black Sheep Bistro. Tom quietly confided he had to sell the restaurant and asked if Rick knew anyone interested in buying one. Rick, knowing they'd be in Spain a while, gave Tom the name of a restaurant broker and assumed that would be the end of it.

Do you really want to know?

After returning from Spain, Rick was gazing dreamily early one morning and Diana asked, "What are you thinking?" He asked, "Do you really want to know?" "Yes," she said, so he told her, "What would you think about buying The Black Sheep from Tom?" They called Tom, made an appointment that day, and immediately upon meeting with them, had the deal wrapped up in just about 5 minutes. Days later Tom & Maribeth ended up closing for the Black Sheep's annual vacation and Diana and Rick, rushed through a 30 day escrow, and re-opened The Black Sheep Bistro as the new owners on Friday the 13th, of July,1989. Since then, The Black Sheep has continued to grow and the press has been more than generous. Zagat diners have been extremely favorable and in the 2011 Los Angeles book, The Black Sheep received a 26 for food and 25 for service. Return patronage is extremely high at the Black Sheep which has helped greatly in the times when economy, war, etc was not so favorable. Another plus diners continually mention are the fair wine pricing and the fact they will always be introduced to something they've never seen before (Rick says, "If they recognize more than 10 wines on my 250 bottle wine list then I haven't done my job.") And wine collectors love the no-corkage, one of a kind "glass rental" instead, wine policy. The numerous hands on cooking classes they did laid the foundations for the future. All in all, anyone talking to either Rick or Diana will quickly learn they love what they've been able to do over the last 20+ years and have felt extremely blessed to have done so much at The Black Sheep Bistro.

And Then!

Never content, the couple is already well on their way to new adventures. Five years ago they began by dabbling in movie making. Their first, Bob Huey & Me (2009) was a true story about a a zany raven they raised to be wild. While shooting the wild birds for the story, they fell in love with the families of ravens down at Crystal Cove State Park and ended up making 3 short films, called The Crystal Cove Project (2009). They also created another 3 part series, The Raven Diaries (2009), which documents their relationships with wild birds all over the western United States. But all that was made in order to get ready for what Rick would tell you is his best project yet; filming and narrating his entire menu and everything they do at the Black Sheep and putting it all on DVD. Their first release, The Black Sheep Bistro's Video Cookbook Vol 1 is their entire menu, shot in the working kitchen, on real nights of operation. Rick's pretty convinced he's the first in the world to offer such a unique look at how food is actually made for the paying customer. He said he wanted to do it so that it looks like you are standing right next to him, literally looking over his shoulder, so that you see everything, exactly how it's done. Rick will tell you that is the way he, and most professional chef's the world over learned to cook, by watching a mentor demonstrate each and every dish. And their second release How To Party Like A Black Sheep, we see Rick & company create some of the world's greatest party dishes right before our eyes. One thing that makes these productions different is the view itself. There's no show, you are watching the hands, the pans, the food, the knives as if you were doing it yourself.

The Best - Cheap and Fast!

Rick says his biggest surprise is the kids reaction to it, "They get it" he says, "Kids see they can do it and I have parents asking where can I get mussels (mushrooms, lamb, and a host of other ingredients) because their 6 year old or ? wants to make the mushrooms with Sherry!" "I have parents thanking me because this is the kind of thing that gets families into the kitchen together, making good food and then sitting down and enjoying it together. That in itself has made the whole project worth it." But Rick says he's far from done yet. He's got more coming from the restaurant on DVD, they are also putting together a subscription site to include the works of all three of their loves; cooking, wildlife and photography. That's set to be up and operational sometime the end of 2011. Rick's confident that once people see what this is all about they will want to join in and be a part of it. Why? "for one, because a restaurant does by survival what people would like to be able to do at home; cook the best possible meal, using the world's finest ingredients, for the least amount of money, fast!"

Next!

Rick is threatening to do hands on cooking classes and "Pop Up" guest chef dinners now that the restaurant is closed. Stay tuned and in touch for more on that!

Check back for updates and new news.

"The Black Sheep Bistro's Video Cookbook Volume 1" and "How To Party Like A Black Sheep"1 - Both are now available on DVD at selected retailers.

©2011 Rick and Diana Boufford