Economy

Upended by the Pandemic, Haute Chefs Move Into Hotels

Yogis and nature fans 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 cast of high-end cooks.

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

“That, on top of Covid, gave us this feeling like, ‘God only knows what’s going to happen next,’” Mr. Kostow stated.


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

It turned out that Howard Backen, the identical architect answerable for the plush environs of Meadowood, had additionally just lately constructed the Ojai Valley Inn’s Farmhouse, outfitted with an open kitchen and state-of-the-art Viking home equipment. One name led to a different, and Mr. Kostow and his workforce 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 before,” stated Mr. Kostow. “It’s like what I imagine California might have been like in the 1930s: rolling hills, rustic, really 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 develop into havens for high-end cooks. Whether displaced by catastrophe, like Mr. Kostow, looking for to make up for lost income, desirous 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. Last year chewed up and spit out the fine-dining playbook: now, there’s a possibility for reinvention.

“Serving outside on a lawn or in a space that’s not your own is not ideal, but it does make you scratch your head, like, ‘Oh, this is cool. What other cool things could we be doing?’” stated Mr. Kostow, who additionally owns a extra casual eatery, The Charter Oak, in Napa Valley. “I think the result, post-pandemic, regarding fine dining, will be more license, more fluidity. All the old rules are blown up, at this point.”

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

“They sold out within the first hour,” stated Ben Kephart, the Ojai Valley Inn’s director of operations. “It’s crazy. That’s about as much as you can charge for a dinner anywhere. It shows you how much of a demand there is, and it speaks to people wanting to get out and support a venture that they feel is deserving.”

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

“We could have had a month of these dinners, straight,” stated Mr. Kephart. “That’s how many people tried to book them.”

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

Across the nation and south of the border this summer time 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 substances 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 means of a neighborhood group, and inspiring dinner attendees to hitch her.

The Bronx-born Mashama Bailey, who received a James Beard Award for finest chef of the Southeast in 2019, and her culinary companion Johno Morisano might be touring from their dwelling base, Savannah, Ga., to Austin this summer time and fall to launch two restaurants at the soon-to-open Thompson resort, which guarantees visitors “mid-century modern meets late-century luxury.” While the eating places, The Diner Bar and The Grey Market, might be everlasting, Ms. Bailey herself might be steering the kitchen on chosen dates, to be introduced.


Given the recognition of Los Cabos amongst Americans, 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&Only 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 might be no scarcity of star cooks at the Waldorf Astoria in Los Cabos this year: June brings Chicago native Stephanie Izard, a a number of James Beard Award winner and the first girl to win Bravo’s “Top Chef.” In July, James Beard Award semifinalist Ronnie Killen will carry his Texas-style barbecue to the seaside. October sees two extra James Beard Award profitable Chicagoans, Sarah Grueneberg and Mindy Segal, and in November, “Top Chef’s” Brian Malarkey will come on down from California. The Waldorf is looking it their Culinary Weekend Series and plans to proceed these stints with notable cooks into 2022.


At the Michelin-starred Breslin and the now-closed Spotted 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 next few months,” Ms. Bloomfield stated, “and looking forward to growing the chef’s garden at the Mayflower this year.” She is, fairly actually, placing down roots. Current menu highlights embrace cauliflower tikka masala and pan-roasted lamb chops with burnt satsuma and pistachio.

“It’s meant a lot,” Ms. Bloomfield stated of her residency. “I’ve been able to hire some of my staff from New York and therefore keep them employed. It’s been great to have them experience the country and the produce it has to offer. We feel very grateful for the experience and to be of service.”


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