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Upended by the Pandemic, Haute Chefs Move Into Hotels

Upended by the Pandemic, Haute Chefs Move Into Hotels
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Upended by the Pandemic, Haute Chefs Move Into Hotels

Upended by the Pandemic, Haute Chefs Move Into Hotels

Yogis and nature lovers have lengthy flocked to Ojai, a verdant mountain enclave 90 minutes north of Los Angeles — gastronomes, not a lot. That modified throughout the pandemic, when the Ojai Valley Inn turned its sprawling, indoor-outdoor farmhouse — formally a marriage venue earlier than the coronavirus upended plans — right into a stage for a revolving solid of high-end cooks.

Amongst the marquee names: Christopher Kostow, the government chef of California’s three-Michelin-starred paragon of nice eating, the Restaurant at Meadowood. Situated greater than 400 miles to the north in Napa Valley, it burned down in a September wildfire.

“That, on prime of Covid, gave us this sense like, ‘God solely is aware of what’s going to occur subsequent,’” Mr. Kostow mentioned.

To pay his workers, Mr. Kostow must arrange store elsewhere. Earlier than the fireplace, he’d had the foresight to look right into a Plan B outdoors Napa, conscious that continuously shifting restrictions may maintain companies in wine nation shuttered whereas different elements of the state had been open.

It turned out that Howard Backen, the identical architect liable for the plush environs of Meadowood, had additionally lately constructed the Ojai Valley Inn’s Farmhouse, geared up with an open kitchen and state-of-the-art Viking home equipment. One name led to a different, and Mr. Kostow and his staff determined to briefly shift their operations to Ojai, the place they engineered a tasting menu of can’t-cook-this-at-home delights like “champagne-bubbled” oysters and caviar dressed with eucalyptus and broccoli.

“I hadn’t been to Ojai earlier than,” mentioned Mr. Kostow. “It’s like what I think about California may need been like in the Nineteen Thirties: rolling hills, rustic, actually bucolic.”

The partnership between the Restaurant at Meadowood and the Ojai Valley Inn exemplifies an accelerating pattern: in the wake of the pandemic, lodges have turn out to be havens for high-end cooks. Whether or not displaced by catastrophe, like Mr. Kostow, searching for to make up for misplaced income, eager to discover new markets or just craving a possibility to check out new issues, well-regarded cooks are flocking to lodges not essentially identified for his or her delicacies. Final 12 months chewed up and spit out the fine-dining playbook: now, there’s a possibility for reinvention.

“Serving outdoors on a garden or in an area that’s not your individual just isn’t ideally suited, nevertheless it does make you scratch your head, like, ‘Oh, that is cool. What different cool issues may we be doing?’” mentioned Mr. Kostow, who additionally owns a extra informal eatery, The Constitution Oak, in Napa Valley. “I feel the end result, post-pandemic, concerning nice eating, shall be extra license, extra fluidity. All the previous guidelines are blown up, at this level.”

“The Restaurant at Meadowood Residency” started on March 3. Over the course of 5 weeks, it obtained the culinary equal of a standing ovation: all 44 dinners Mr. Kostow presided over at the Ojai Farmhouse bought out, together with a finale weekend of meals in Might that featured wine pairings from the famend Krug Champagne home and Harlan Property, a famed Napa Valley producer of Bordeaux-style blends. Tickets for that dinner value $999 per individual.

“They bought out inside the first hour,” mentioned Ben Kephart, the Ojai Valley Inn’s director of operations. “It’s loopy. That’s about as a lot as you may cost for a dinner wherever. It reveals you ways a lot of a requirement there’s, and it speaks to individuals eager to get out and help a enterprise that they really feel is deserving.”

One in all Mr. Kostow’s March dinners in Ojai supplied 13 programs, a number of pours of wine, and, perhaps most significantly, the alternative to decorate up and other people watch (from nicely over six toes away). It felt like the reverse of sitting on the sofa, numbly chewing Postmates by the glow of Netflix. Apparently, individuals need that.

“We may have had a month of those dinners, straight,” mentioned Mr. Kephart. “That’s how many individuals tried to ebook them.”

Apart from Mr. Kostow, the Farmhouse has performed host to cooks comparable to Nancy Silverton, the grande dame of Italian meals in Los Angeles. Subsequent month brings David Castro, the chef of Fauna in Baja California, which was lately honored by World’s 50 Finest, one in every of the hospitality trade’s main rankings organizations, in addition to Neal Fraser, the proprietor of the revered eatery Redbird in Los Angeles.

Throughout the nation and south of the border this summer season and fall, related visitor chef-resort collaborations are in the works:

Dominique Crenn, whose San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn, holds three Michelin stars, will transfer her avant-garde French feast 1,500 miles down the Pacific Coast this month, to the Montage resort in Los Cabos. For six days, starting June 15, Ms. Crenn will serve a menu of signature favorites from her restaurant reimagined with native Baja components and flavors. It’s Ms. Crenn’s manner of marking her restaurant’s tenth anniversary, and as a part of the celebration, she’s organizing volunteering actions in the Los Cabos group by a neighborhood group, and inspiring dinner attendees to hitch her.

The Bronx-born Mashama Bailey, who gained a James Beard Award for finest chef of the Southeast in 2019, and her culinary accomplice Johno Morisano shall be touring from their dwelling base, Savannah, Ga., to Austin this summer season and fall to launch two eating places at the soon-to-open Thompson resort, which guarantees company “mid-century trendy meets late-century luxurious.” Whereas the eating places, The Diner Bar and The Gray Market, shall be everlasting, Ms. Bailey herself shall be steering the kitchen on chosen dates, to be introduced.


Given the recognition of Los Cabos amongst People, who make up the bulk of the area’s worldwide vacationers, and its proximity to the United States, it’s no shock that a number of top-tier cooks are flocking there. From June 28 to July 2, Jean-Georges Vongerichten — who has eating places in Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo and several other different cities, along with his two-Michelin-star hallmark in New York — will hunker down at the One&Solely Palmilla, on the Sea of Cortez. At one in every of the property’s eating places, Suviche, he’ll riff on conventional sushi and ceviche, at one other, he’ll see to the searing of steaks as the waves crash and recede: surf and turf, à la Jean-Georges.

There shall be no scarcity of star cooks at the Waldorf Astoria in Los Cabos this 12 months: June brings Chicago native Stephanie Izard, a a number of James Beard Award winner and the first lady to win Bravo’s “High Chef.” In July, James Beard Award semifinalist Ronnie Killen will convey his Texas-style barbecue to the seaside. October sees two extra James Beard Award profitable Chicagoans, Sarah Grueneberg and Mindy Segal, and in November, “High Chef’s” Brian Malarkey will come on down from California. The Waldorf is asking it their Culinary Weekend Collection and plans to proceed these stints with notable cooks into 2022.


At the Michelin-starred Breslin and the now-closed Noticed Pig, April Bloomfield presided over a few of the finest pub fare in New York. When the pandemic hit, she looked for an outlet to proceed her craft and assist her workers. She discovered one in the Mayflower Inn & Spa, an Auberge resort in the bucolic Connecticut countryside. Her residency started in September and can proceed for the foreseeable future.

“I’m excited for the subsequent few months,” Ms. Bloomfield mentioned, “and searching ahead to rising the chef’s backyard at the Mayflower this 12 months.” She is, fairly actually, placing down roots. Present menu highlights embody cauliflower tikka masala and pan-roasted lamb chops with burnt satsuma and pistachio.

“It’s meant so much,” Ms. Bloomfield mentioned of her residency. “I’ve been capable of rent a few of my workers from New York and due to this fact maintain them employed. It’s been nice to have them expertise the nation and the produce it has to supply. We really feel very grateful for the expertise and to be of service.”


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