Due to the pandemic, high chefs are moving to hotels



Yogis and nature lovers have long flocked to Ojai, a verdant mountain enclave 90 minutes north of Los Angeles – gastronomy isn’t all that much. This changed during the pandemic when Ojai Valley Inn transformed his spacious, indoor and outdoor farmhouse – formally the wedding venue before the coronavirus turned plans – into a stage for an ever-changing lineup of top-notch chefs.

Notable names include Christopher Costow, head chef at Meadowood, a three-Michelin-starred California restaurant. Located more than 400 miles north in the Napa Valley, it burned out in the September fire.

“This, in addition to Covid, gave us a feeling like: ‘God only knows what will happen next,’ said Mr. Costow.

To pay his staff, Mr. Coste would have to open a store elsewhere. Before the fire, he had the foresight to study Plan B outside Napa, knowing that ever-changing restrictions could lead to business closure in the wine country. while other parts of the state were open

It turned out that Howard Bucken, the same architect who was in charge of Meadow’s chic neighborhoods, also recently built the Ojai Valley Inn farmhouse, equipped with an open kitchen and state-of-the-art Viking appliances. One call led to another, and Mr. Costow and his team decided to temporarily relocate their operations to Ojai, where they developed a tasting menu of delicacies that cannot be prepared at home, such as oysters and champagne caviar. seasoned with eucalyptus and broccoli.

“I have not been to Ojai before,” Mr. Costow said. “It’s like what I envisioned California in the 1930s: rolling hills, rustic, really bucolic.”

The partnership between Meadowood Restaurant and the Ojai Valley Inn reflects a growing trend: Since the pandemic, hotels have become a haven for high-class chefs. Whether it’s displacement as a result of natural disasters like Mr. Costow, looking to make up for lost income, wanting to explore new markets, or just wanting to try something new, respected chefs flock to hotels not necessarily famous for their cuisine. Last year chewed and spat out the rules for preparing gourmet dishes: now there is room for rethinking.

“Serving on the lawn or in someone else’s room is not ideal, but it makes you scratch your head like,“ Oh, that’s cool. What other cool things could we do? “Said Mr. Costow, who also owns a more casual diner. Charter Oak, in the Napa Valley. “I think there will be more freedom and flexibility in fine dining as a result of the post-pandemic. At the moment, all the old rules have been violated. “

“Restaurant at Meadowood Residency” began on March 3rd. Within five weeks, he received the culinary equivalent of a standing ovation: all 44 dinners Mr. Costow presided over at the Ojai Farmhouse were sold out, including the final dinners over the weekend. in May, it featured wine pairings from the renowned house of Krug Champagne and Harlan Estate, a renowned manufacturer of Bordeaux blends from the Napa Valley. Tickets for this dinner are $ 999 per person.

“They were sold out within the first hour.” said Ben Kefhart, chief operating officer of the Ojai Valley Inn. “It’s crazy. It’s about as much as you can charge for dinner anywhere. It shows you how much the demand is and reaches out to people who want to go out and support an enterprise they think deserves.”

One of Mr. Costow’s March dinners in Ojai had 13 courses, several drinks and, perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to get dressed and watch people (from more than six feet). It was like sitting on the couch and chewing on Postmates in the Netflix light. Apparently, people want it.

“We could have dinners like this for a month,” said Mr. Kefhart. “That’s how many people tried to book them.”

In addition to Mr. Kostov, the farmhouse employed chefs such as Nancy Silverton, the great lady of Italian food in Los Angeles. Next month David Castro, chef at Fauna in Baja California, which was recently honored with the World’s 50 Best, one of the hospitality industry’s largest ranked organizations, and Neil Fraser, owner of the highly respected Redbird diner in Los Angeles.

Collaborations with guest chefs and resorts are planned across the country and south of the border this summer and fall:

Dominic Crenn, whose Atelier Crenn restaurant in San Francisco has three Michelin stars, will take its avant-garde French feast 1,500 miles down the Pacific coast this month. Assembly Resort in Los Cabos… For six days starting June 15, Ms. Krenn will be serving up her restaurant’s signature favorites, reimagined using local ingredients and flavors. This is how Ms. Crenn celebrates her restaurant’s 10th anniversary, and as part of the celebration, she organizes volunteer activities in the Los Cabos community through a local organization and invites diners to join her for dinner.

Born in the Bronx Mashama Baileywho won the 2019 James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast, and her culinary partner Jono Morisano will be traveling from their base, Savannah, Georgia, to Austin this summer, and to open two restaurants at the soon to open Thompson Hotel, which promises guests “mid-century modernity meets end-century luxury.” While the restaurants, The Diner Bar and The Gray Market, will be permanent, Ms. Bailey will manage the kitchen herself on specific dates to be announced.

Given the popularity Los Cabos Unsurprisingly, among Americans, who make up the bulk of international tourists to the region, and because of its proximity to the United States, several high-profile chefs flock there. June 28 to July 2, Jean-Georges Wongerichten – which has restaurants in Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo and several other cities, in addition to its two-Michelin-starred New York business card – will stay at One & Only Palmilla Resort, on the sea of ​​Cortez. In one of the hotel’s restaurants, Suviche, he will try traditional sushi and ceviche, in another he will take care of toasting steaks when the waves break and recede: surf and turf, a la Jean-Georges.

There will be no shortage of celebrity chefs at the Waldorf Astoria in Los Cabos this year: June will bring the Chicago native. Stephanie Izard, multiple winner of the James Beard Award and the first woman to receive the Bravo Best Chef award. In July, a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award. Ronnie Killen will bring his Texas-style BBQ to the beach. Two more James Beard Award winners to appear in October Sarah Gruneberg as well as Mindy Segal, and in November “Top Chef’s” Brian Malarkey will come from California. Waldorf call it theirs Cooking weekend series and plans to continue this work with renowned chefs until 2022.

Michelin-starred Breslin and now closed Spotted pig, April Bloomfield presided over one of the best pubs in New York. When the pandemic broke out, she was looking for a way out to continue her business and help her employees. She found one in Mayflower Inn & Spa, a Auberge resort in the Connecticut countryside. Her residency began in September and will continue for the foreseeable future.

“I’m looking forward to the next few months,” said Ms. Bloomfield, “and look forward to growing a chef’s garden at Mayflower this year.” She literally put down roots. The current menu includes tikka masala cauliflower and fried lamb chops with burnt satsuma and pistachios.

“It means a lot,” Ms. Bloomfield said of her residence. “I was able to hire some of my employees from New York and thus keep their jobs. It was great to introduce them to this country and the products it has to offer. We are very grateful for the experience gained and for the fact that we can be useful. “


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