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 forged of high-end cooks.

Among the marquee names: Christopher Kostow, the government chef of California’s three-Michelin-starred paragon of superb 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 employees, Mr. Kostow must arrange store elsewhere. Before the hearth, he’d had the foresight to look right into a Plan B exterior Napa, conscious that continually shifting restrictions might maintain companies in wine nation shuttered whereas different components of the state have 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, outfitted with an open kitchen and state-of-the-art Viking home equipment. One name led to a different, and Mr. Kostow and his group determined to quickly 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 development: in the wake of the pandemic, motels have change into havens for high-end cooks. Whether displaced by catastrophe, like Mr. Kostow, in search of to make up for misplaced income, eager to discover new markets or just craving a chance to check out new issues, well-regarded cooks are flocking to motels not essentially recognized for his or her delicacies. Last yr chewed up and spit out the fine-dining playbook: now, there’s a chance for reinvention.

Christopher Kostow, the government chef of California’s three-Michelin-starred paragon of superb eating, the Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley, lately presided over sold-out dinners at the Ojai Valley Inn’s Farmhouse.Credit… Ojai Valley Inn

“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 informal 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 three. 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 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 individual.

“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, possibly most significantly, the alternative to decorate up and folks 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 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 equivalent 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 lately honored by World’s 50 Best, 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.

Across the nation and south of the border this summer time and fall, comparable visitor chef-resort collaborations are in the works:

Dominique Crenn’s San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn, holds three Michelin stars. She will spend a part of June at the Montage resort in Los Cabos, reimagining signature dishes like her geoduck tart, above, with citrus, lemongrass and verbena mousseline.Credit…Montage Los Cabos

Dominique Crenn at Montage Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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 elements and flavors. It’s Ms. Crenn’s manner of marking her restaurant’s 10th anniversary, and as a part of the celebration, she’s organizing volunteering actions in the Los Cabos group via a neighborhood group, and inspiring dinner attendees to hitch her.

Culinary companions Mashama Bailey, proper, and Johno Morisano will preside over the southern fare served in the comfortable environs of the Thompson Austin, opening quickly.Credit…Adam Kuehl

Mashama Bailey at Thompson Austin, Austin, Texas

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

The celebrated chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten will decamp to the One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos to spin recent takes on the area’s seafood and steak.Credit…One&Only Palmilla

Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the One&Only Palmilla, San José del Cabo, Mexico

Given the reputation 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 a number of 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.

The Culinary Weekend Series placed on by the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal incorporates a numerous array of cooks, seated dinners and cocktail events, like this one, from chef Matt Zubrod’s April takeover of the property.Credit…Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal

Top-tier cooks at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

There will likely be no scarcity of star cooks at the Waldorf Astoria in Los Cabos this yr: 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 seashore. 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.

The pub-inspired fare at the Mayflower Inn & Spa, above, is the work of April Bloomfield, the chef of the Michelin-starred Breslin and the now-closed Spotted Pig in New York. She has a residency at the Connecticut resort.Credit…Mayflower Inn & Spa, Auberge Resorts Collection

April Bloomfield at the Mayflower Inn & Spa, Washington, Conn.

At the Michelin-starred Breslin and the now-closed Spotted Pig, April Bloomfield presided over a few of the greatest pub fare in New York. When the pandemic hit, she looked for an outlet to proceed her craft and assist her employees. 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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