Nicolas Bour has cooked for two presidents; steamed scallops in a clay pot for Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia; created authentic curry dishes for the sultan of Brunei; and served up huge pans of post-Superbowl paella for the New Orleans Saints. But ask him about his favorite culinary experience and you won’t hear about any high-profile appearances – instead, he’ll talk your ear off about Iris, the highly acclaimed Atlanta bistro he launched in 2002. Opening his own restaurant didn’t come without hiccups and heartache, but the craftsmanship that went on behind the scenes made every minute worth it.
That’s because Bour, executive chef of outlets at the Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Resort & Spa in San Diego, inherited a passion for food, fresh ingredients and authentic flavor from his French father and American mother who raised him on a working organic farm. Meals were made with the day’s harvest, and even at a young age, Bour formed an appreciation for the simplest ingredients.
After leaving the farm, he sharpened his skills in some of the country’s best restaurants and trained under a succession of storied chefs. He spent his formidable years working side by side with James Beard “Best Chef” Elizabeth Terry (of Elizabeth’s on 37th fame), Michelin Star chef Guenter Seeger and acclaimed chef Jean Banchet. While he learned first-hand the concept of farm-to-table from his parents, from these culinary legends he mastered technique and the ins and outs of a professional kitchen. It’s the kind of grueling education that can make or break a young chef – for Bour, the experience enhanced his natural ability to create ambitious, memorable food.
“My cuisine is simple and fresh,” says the chef who in 2006 steered the helm at The Farmhouse in Georgia and helped garner Gourmet Magazine’s Best Farm to Table restaurant award. “I don’t like to play with food too much. Instead, I focus on the ingredients and how best to bring them out.”