While there are chefs who list myriad inspirations that helped them find their way to the culinary world, Heather Neri, Chef de Cuisine of No. 9 Park, can pin-point specifically where it all started for her – an Easy-Bake Oven.
Growing up in Plymouth, MA, Heather received one of the toy ovens as a present from her mother, who baked and decorated cakes herself, and fell head over heels for the artistry of cooking. She declared her aspirations in 2nd grade – more than a little inspired by her mother’s talents in their home kitchen – although by freshman year of high school, she had left behind the pastry dreams in favor of a more savory path. Heather enrolled in a culinary tech program in high school, and soon found herself spending most of her time in the kitchen. After high school, she went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, then completed an externship at the Broadmoore Hotel in Colorado Springs, CO after graduation.
Wanting to be closer to family, Heather moved back to Boston, where she landed at Barbara Lynch's South End restaurant, B&G Oysters, working on the line for nearly two years. She then spent two years at sister restaurant No. 9 Park, working her way up to rounds cook under Chef de Cuisine, Patrick Campbell. Working with Chef Patrick made a lasting impression on Heather, and when he departed to open Café ArtScience in Cambridge, Heather joined him as his sous chef for two years. She then returned to No. 9 Park in 2017, first as sous chef before earning her current role as Chef de Cuisine.
Heather credits her mentors Chef Patrick Campbell and Chef Scott Jones for instilling in her the confidence to lead the No. 9 Park kitchen and to teach her cooks. She cites education as her favorite aspect of the job; she loves her ability as CDC to develop her team, watch them grow, then come full circle and pass on the knowledge they’ve gained.
Heather has never doubted her passion for cooking, and her career path in the culinary world. She says, “I cook because it makes me happy, it’s what I’m good at, and it makes other people happy.” When not in the No. 9 kitchen, Heather can be found spending time with her family and on the beach in the summertime.