Taste of the Nation: Laguna Beach will be held at Montage Laguna Beach
LOCALLY PRESENTED BY LEXUS
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Set on the oceanfront bluff at Studio, with sweeping panoramas of the Pacific Ocean and striking Craftsman-style architecture, Montage Laguna Beach is the ideal choice for a an afternoon of delicious food, wine, and specialty cocktails.
Craig Strong - Studio at Montage Laguna Beach-CA
Lee Smith - Montage Laguna Beach-CA
Lizzie Binder- Formally of Bar Bambino-San Francisco, CA
Josiah Citrin-Mélisse- Los Angeles, CA
Chris Crary- Santa Monica, CA
Alan Wong- Alan Wong’s Restaurant- Honolulu, HI
Proceeds locally benefit the Community Action Partnership of Orange County and Second Harvest Orange County Food Bank Capistrano. Both organizations are fighting to end childhood hunger in Orange County.
Craig Strong - Studio at Montage Laguna Beach- CA
Chef Craig Strong joined Montage Laguna Beach as Executive Chef of Studio in June 2009. Chef Strong, known for his modern French cuisine with California influences, developed a love for cooking at an early age. One of eight children growing up in San Diego, he was inspired by his mother and grandmother to first experiment with tomatoes and zucchini grown in the family’s vegetable garden that was his to manage. At age 19, he attended L'Academie de Cuisine near Washington, D.C., where he studied under some of the most respected chefs in the area, including Chefs Françoise and Pascal Dinot.
Most recently, Chef Strong was Chef de Cuisine to what is now The Langham, Huntington Hotel & Spa’s Dining Room in Pasadena, Calif. During his eight-year tenure, he was responsible for all facets of the restaurant, including menu design and development. Under his direction, The Dining Room became one of Los Angeles’ top destination dining venues and a showcase for his love of pairing fine food with wine in ever-changing dishes, inventive tasting menus for winemaker dinners and delicious special events. He and the restaurant received many accolades, including Michelin One-star ratings in 2007and 2008; Gourmet Magazine “60 World’s Best Hotel Dining Rooms,” Los Angeles Times 3 Star Rating, Food & Wine “50 Best Hotel Restaurants” and Forbes Five Star in 2009. Strong was named Best New Chef by Riviera Magazine; was a semi finalist in the 2009, 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards for Best Chef/Pacific.
From 1990 to 1994, Chef Strong held numerous culinary positions, including Saucier at La Caille in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah; the Capitol Club at Hyatt Regency, Washington, D.C.; Sous Chef at the fine dining Glitretind Restaurant at Stein Erikson Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah; First Assistant to Chef at the Adams Mark Hotel in Philadelphia, and then at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, where he honed classic techniques with Asian influences. In 1995, he moved to Atlanta to work at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, as Garde Manger with Chef Guenter Seeger and then as Saucier and Tournant with Chef Joel Antunes, whose classically trained French background added yet another international dimension to Strong’s style.
Chef Strong then moved to Europe as Sous Chef for The Newport Room at the Hotel Arts in Barcelona, the fine dining restaurant in a property managed by Ritz-Carlton. Working in Spain added another facet to Chef Strong’s cooking. The emphasis on olive oil, fresh seafood and the Mediterranean climate, similar to that of Southern California, led Chef Strong to embrace the bold flavors and rustic style of Spanish cuisine, adding the refinement of French techniques.
The concept and overall experience of Studio is dedicated to highlighting the best this idyllic location has to offer – pristine ingredients from local purveyors, unsurpassed views of the Pacific Ocean and an elegantly comfortable approach to the dining experience.
Studio has most recently been recognized with Three Stars from Los Angeles Times, Five Stars from Forbes Travel Guide, Robb Report as one of “America’s Finest Dining Restaurants,” and Food & Wine Magazine’s “Top 50 Hotel Restaurants”. Studio has also earned the “Best of Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator and is rated one of Zagat Survey’s “America’s Top Restaurants.”
Lee Smith - Montage Laguna Beach- CA
Executive Pastry Chef Lee Smith, who has over 24 years of experience in the industry, leads a team of pastry chefs, chocolatiers and bakers, and works closely with the catering and conference services teams, as well as the resort restaurants, to create innovative pastry concepts for all guests. Chef Lee also develops the resort's creative line-up of pastries, confections, breads, chocolates and in-room amenities.
After receiving his culinary degree from The South Field Culinary School in Leicestershire, England, Chef Lee completed a three-year apprenticeship at The Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland under the guidance of legendary pastry chef Ian Ironside. Following his apprenticeship, Chef Lee worked for celebrated chefs such as Chef Michel Perraud, Chef Pierre Kouffman, and Chef Christian Germain in a series of Michelin one, two and three star restaurants in England and France.
The next twelve years of Chef Lee’s career consisted of working for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts at hotels across three continents, followed by a career at The Peninsula Hotel Bangkok. At each hotel, Chef Lee was responsible for leading teams of bakers, Chocolatiers, ice cream makers, cake designers and pastry chefs to fulfill the highest expectations of international travelers.
The England native came to the United States in 1999 to work at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Prior to joining the culinary team at Montage Laguna Beach, Chef Lee served as the Corporate Executive Pastry Chef for the Innovative Dining Group, based in California, where he developed multiple restaurant concepts for the greater Los Angeles area.
Chef Lee credits his success to “passion and love of my craft, continuation of a noble and ancient trade, and my ability to pass on that passion and knowledge.”
Lizzie Binder- San Francisco, CA
Executive Chef Elizabeth Binder was born and raised in South Africa where she attended the internationally recognized Christina Martin School of Food and Wine in her hometown of Durban. After graduating, she landed her first cooking job at the small luxury hotel, Blue Mountain Lodge near the Kruger Park. Where she was quickly promoted to the hotel’s head chef, at the tender age of nineteen. At Blue Mountain, her notoriety rose as she cooked state dinners for both F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela at a pivotal point in South African history.
In 1995, Elizabeth packed her bags to embark on a career that would take her around the world. Her first stop was the UK where she worked for Sir Terrence Conran’s Del Ponte and at Clarke’s, owned by Alice Waters’ protege Sally Clarke. Subsequent travels took her around the globe – from the French Alps to Sydney, Australia – further deepening her knowledge of cuisine and international kitchens. Seeking her next culinary adventure, she headed to the United States where she fell in love with San Francisco. Her work in San Francisco has seen her be part of Traci des Jardin’s original team at Jardiniere and working along side Loretta Keller at Bizou. In 2006, after the birth of her first child, Elizabeth met Christopher Losa. The two worked hand-in-hand to open the Italian-inspired Bar Bambino, which in five short years became one of the most recognized and awarded restaurants in San Francisco’s Mission District. At Bar Bambino, she was able to realize her concept of rustically elegant cuisine and combine finesse with respect for local, fresh, and extraordinary ingredients. Elizabeth is presently on the hunt for her next challenge. She recently finished competing on Top Chef: Seattle, the tenth season of the Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series. She currently resides in Napa with her chef husband and two children.
Josiah Citrin- Mélisse- Los Angeles, CA
A culinary expert and veteran of the gourmet dining industry, Josiah Citrin is a Two-Star Michelin Chef and owner of highly-acclaimed Mélisse restaurant in Santa Monica, California, and co-owner of Lemon Moon Café in nearby West Los Angeles.
A Los Angeles native, Citrin discovered his passion for food from his family at an early age. His mother was a caterer and both grandmothers cooked and enjoyed good food. Their knowledge, combined with his passion for cooking and business, led to his desire to pursue a culinary career. Citrin educated himself by moving to Paris after graduating from Santa Monica High School. In the City of Light, he worked for three years at fine Parisian restaurants Vivarois and La Poste, allowing himself to explore his French heritage while gaining understanding of and respect for the rules of traditional French cooking.
This invaluable experience taught him both the art and discipline of cooking and fine dining and formed the definitive basis of his training. He returned to the United States in 1990 with determination and vision and began applying his skills by working at Los Angeles’ finest restaurants- notably Wolfgang Puck’s celebrated Chinois on Main and then at Granita. After two years, Josiah moved on to join Patina and Pinot Bistro and cooked alongside famed chef and restaurateur Joachim Splichal.
At Patina, Josiah met his future wife Diane, who was making their desserts and later became the pastry chef for Chinois on Main. A marriage in culinary heaven was made. Citrin subsequently became Chef at Capri restaurant in Venice and Jackson’s in West Hollywood.
With a heightened interest in French gastronomy and a spirit for entrepreneurship, Citrin launched his first restaurant, JiRaffe in 1996. Located in Santa Monica, JiRaffe specialized in California French Bistro food and was pioneered together with childhood friend and fellow chef Raphael Lunetta. With Diane serving as business manager, JiRaffe quickly developed a loyal following. Citrin’s lifelong dream of opening his own fine dining establishment led to the sale of his interest in JiRaffe to Lunetta. In 1999, with the encouragement, support and assistance of Diane, Mélisse opened its doors to critical acclaim in Santa Monica and has been impressing the culinary world ever since.
Named after the “lemon balm” herb indigenous to the Mediterranean, Mélisse has become a favorite for southern California locals as well as world travelers searching for an exemplary dining experience and an ideal place to celebrate a special occasion. Citrin is present daily in Mélisse’s kitchen and mentors the careers of younger chefs who are hand-selected and trained. He frequents the weekly Farmers’ Market in Santa Monica, where he inspects and procures the produce himself. Having established a long-standing rapport with the various farmers from Los Angeles’ outlying regions, he hosts a bi-annual dinner at his restaurant in their honor. He also participates in many cooking and charitable events each year, including the Wolfgang Puck Cancer Society Event, Planned Parenthood, Special Olympics, Cystic Fibrosis and Cure Autism Now.
In 2004 Citrin partnered with Lunetta again to open Lemon Moon, a casual and New York-style eatery that caters to a loyal crowd with an eclectic palate. Since opening its doors, it has remained a local favorite.
Citrin’s recent honors include: Two Stars by Michelin Guide Los Angeles (2008, 2009), #1 for Top Food in Los Angeles and #1 American-French Restaurant for Food in Los Angeles by Zagat Guide (2013), Five Stars by Forbes Travel Guide (2013), Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence (2001-2008), Top 40 Restaurants by Gayot.com since 2006, “Top Ten New Chefs” by Food and Wine magazine (1997) and “Rising Star Chef” by Restaurant Hospitality magazine (1997). He was named among Best Chefs of the Year by Los Angeles magazine in (2012).
In addition, he has been featured on various television food shows and his restaurant and recipes have been written up in numerous national food publications. Citrin has traveled extensively as a Guest Chef for Crystal Cruises. He has been Guest Chef at: the Four Seasons Singapore; the Rheingau Food & Wine Festival in Germany; the Naples, Florida Wine & Food Festival; Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos. Citrin was also invited to participate in the “Masters of Food and Wine at the Highlands Inn” in 2001 and 2005, an event that attracts the best chefs from around the world.
Having derived incredible satisfaction from his various business ventures over the past decade and raising two beautiful children with Diane, Citrin looks forward to the next step in his business: bringing his refined skills and artistry to a broader international dining audience. His first cookbook, “In Pursuit of Excellence” was released in autumn 2011; it was awarded the gold medal and named Best Cookbook by the Independent Book Publishers Association and was one of three finalists for a Benjamin Franklin Award. “In Pursuit of Excellence” is available at the Mélisse website (www.melisse.com), on Amazon and at selected retailers.
Chris Crary- Santa Monica, CA
Chef Chris Crary joined 41 Ocean as Executive Chef and Partner in November 2012. Chef Crary, known for seasonal California cuisine with contemporary influences, developed a love for cooking at an early age. Growing up in the small town of Bucyrus, Ohio, he was no stranger to hearty American dishes and found inspiration from his mother and grandmother’s family recipes. In 2003, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree from acclaimed Johnson and Wales University, where he studied under some of the most respected chefs in the area.
Most recently, Chef Crary was Chef de Cuisine at Whist Restaurant at Viceroy Santa Monica. During his three years with the property, he was responsible for all facets of the restaurant, including menu design and development. During that time, Whist Restaurant became one of Los Angeles' top dining destinations and a showcase for Chef Crary’s love for inventive preparations of local ingredients. He and the restaurant received many accolades, including 2012 Top 5 Rising Star Chefs in the U.S. from Gayot.com, and 2 ½ stars from the Los Angeles Times.
Lighter California fare was not always Chef Crary’s specialty. After graduating culinary school, he joined the Hyatt Key West, Florida, and then made his way to San Diego, landing a job as Executive Chef at Jack’s La Jolla – Viaggio Dining Room. The heavier, Northern Italian menu took its toll on Chef Crary’s overall health and he decided to make a change. Adopting a more active lifestyle and healthier way of eating and cooking, Chef Crary dropped 70 pounds before joining Whist Restaurant in 2009.
Thanks in part to his new, refined approach to his food, Chef Crary joined the cast of Bravo’s Top Chef: Texas in 2011, where he gained national exposure for his seasonal California cuisine and was named Season 9’s “fan favorite.” Shortly thereafter, Chef Crary traveled extensively throughout Thailand, gaining inspiration and sampling new ingredients, which still influence his menus today.
Consistent, simple and purposeful. This is the philosophy and approach that has propelled Chef Jenn Louis to a culinary career spanning nearly two decades. Louis’ journey began as a teenager struggling to find her path as an artist. After graduating from Pfizer College in Claremont, CA, Louis traveled throughout Europe and North and South America, even settling in Israel for several months. Upon her return to California, she learned of a job opening from a close friend cooking for an Outward Bound base camp deep in the North Carolina woods. Louis landed the job and after a few short weeks at the camp, she had an epiphany that cooking was her passion and could lead to a successful and fulfilling life-long career. Louis followed this dream all the way to the Western Culinary Institute of Portland, and shortly after began working as a line cook at the prominent Portland restaurant, Wildwood.
In 2000, Louis’ entrepreneurial spirit led her to open Culinary Artistry, a full-service catering company, providing everything from valet service to floral arrangements to an array of menu styles. Today, it is considered one of the top event planning companies in Portland, one that is not only wildly successful but committed to sustainable business practices.
Eight years later, rooted by the myriad inspirations of their home, Louis and husband David Welch opened their first brick-and-mortar concept, Lincoln Restaurant. Lincoln is a balance between old and new, modern and classic, rustic and refined. Louis’ menu takes its cue from the seasons, harvesting locally-grown Pacific Northwest ingredients and transforming them into sophisticated yet honest fare. Her mix of fortitude and finesse immediately made Lincoln a standout on the Portland restaurant scene. Just a few short months after opening, the restaurant was recognized as one of Condé Nast Traveler’s “Hot List” of 50 top new restaurants in North America, while Louis was recognized as a semifinalist for the 2010 and 2011 James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Northwest.” The success of Lincoln was overwhelming, but it sparked an idea for her next venture.
In the spring of 2011, Louis and Welch launched their second restaurant, Sunshine Tavern, in the Southeast Division district of Portland. Louis and Welch sought to create a haven for both young families and singles, serving up soul-satisfying food and playful cocktails. For this quintessential tavern, Louis created dishes that are comforting and unfussy, while using the highest quality ingredients available – a philosophy she has felt passionate about throughout her culinary career. In 2012, the popularity of Lincoln Restaurant and Sunshine Tavern catapulted Louis’ presence on a national scale and she was named one of Food & Wine’s prestigious Best New Chefs.
When not in the kitchen or planning events, Louis can be found traveling the globe with her husband, teaching cooking classes, playing the drums or spending time with her three cats, White Cat, Orange Cat and Wasco.
Nick Roberts & Brooke Williamson- Hudson House/The Tripel- Los Angeles, CA
Bringing over sixteen years of restaurant experience to his role as chef/owner of Hudson House, Nick Roberts is an accomplished hospitality professional with successful ventures such as Amuse Café, Beechwood in Venice, and most recently The Tripel in Playa Del Rey. Roberts, along with wife Brooke Williamson, has once again set the gold standard for casual, simple and exceptional New American gastropub fare with Hudson House and The Tripel.
Growing up in Durney Vinyards, a family-owned vineyard and wine operation in Carmel, California, Roberts’ always found the world of culinary arts fascinating. As a child, while his brothers played sports outside, Roberts would often find himself helping his mother and grandmother in the kitchen. At fifteen, Roberts started his restaurant career as a busboy. From that point on, he knew that the hospitality industry was his calling in life. This strong passion for food led him to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After earning his A.A degree, Roberts headed back to his hometown to become chef at the prestigious Highlands Inn Restaurant. According to Roberts, “It was at Highlands Inn where [my] true culinary training began.” Roberts later moved to Southern California and worked at Hotel Bel-Air before joining the team at Zax in Brentwood where he met his future wife, Williamson. He then traveled to New York City to work at Café Bouley before returning to the West Coast to open his own restaurant business. His business savvy along with his fantastic culinary skills helped husband-and-wife duo Roberts and Williamson open Amuse Café, Beechwood in Venice, Hudson House and The Tripel.
Roberts and his wife opened Hudson House, a cool gastropub with a laid back vibe in the South Bay in March of 2009 and more recently The Tripel in Playa Del Rey in March of 2011. Roberts finds himself doing everything from cooking and waiting tables to fixing tiles. He finds that his inspirations in life come from daily challenges, meeting new people, and learning from the people he works with. When he is not at one of his restaurants, Roberts can be found trekking the great outdoors, surfing the beaches of Los Angeles or spending quality time with his family.
Brooke Williamson’s entire life has always been about food. Ever since she can remember, Williamson wanted to become a chef or a restaurateur. After working with some of the country's top chefs, her dream has finally been realized in the form of successful ventures such as Amuse Café, Beechwood, Hudson House and newest project with chef-husband Nick Roberts, The Tripel in Playa Del Rey.
A native of Los Angeles, Williamson began her culinary career at a young age as a teacher’s assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles. Soon after working as a pastry assistant at Fenix at the Argyle Hotel, nineteen-year-old Williamson won first place in the Quady’s Four Star Pastry Competition. As her star quality began to shine, chef Michael McCarty took notice and invited the young chef to work at his acclaimed Santa Monica restaurant, Michael’s. Two years later, Williamson headed to the East Coast to work at celebrated restaurant Daniel in New York. She then returned to Los Angeles, where she was appointed executive chef at celebrated L.A. restaurant, Boxer. Williamson then continued her culinary career as executive chef of Zax in Brentwood, raising the bar on seasonal American cuisine by infusing local ingredients from Southern California with more diverse and global flavors. During her time at Zax, she was honored by media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times and Forbes as a culinary mastermind. After leaving Zax, Williamson and fellow Zax partner Roberts opened Amuse Café, and Beechwood in Venice, where Williamson earned the title "Rising Star Chef" by StarChefs.
Along with Roberts, Williamson opened the American gastropub, Hudson House, in March 2009 and more recently, the Tripel in Playa Del Rey in March of 2011. In its day-to-day operations, she is responsible for managing front and back of house and creating all specialty cocktails. She finds that her truest inspiration, aside from good food, wine and beer, comes from her son and restaurant namesake, Hudson. Other than spending time with her beloved family, Williamson loves hiking the outdoors and spending hours wandering around the supermarket.
Williamson was recently the runner up on Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle.
Alan Wong- Alan Wong’s Restaurant- Honolulu, CA
In the world of gourmet cooking, critically-acclaimed Chef Alan Wong is well-known for his unique creative flair. A renowned master of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Chef Wong has made a highly-successful career out of marrying elements of different ethnic cooking styles using the finest Island-grown ingredients. As his Asian roots combine with his French culinary background, east and west cuisines do not merely meet -- they meld.
Completing his apprenticeship at The Greenbrier Hotel, Chef Wong worked at Lutece in New York City. It was there that his mentor, Chef Andre Soltner, emphasized the importance of being a “skilled craftsman” and “cooking with two feet on the ground”. These words remain with Chef Wong in all aspects of his work as he guides and nurtures his staff.
In 1989, he opened The Canoe House Restaurant at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows and subsequently participated in every “Cuisines of the Sun” event held there for twelve years. 1991 witnessed the birth of Hawaii Regional Cuisine when he and eleven other chefs organized a group determined to work with local farmers, fishermen, and ranchers. The creation of HRC helped to establish Hawaii as a sought-after destination to experience a unique blend of ethnic-inspired cuisines made with fresh, local products.
In 1994, Chef Wong was named one of 13 Rising Star Chefs in America by the Robert Mondavi Winery for his culinary excellence. He is a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef, Pacific Northwest 1996. Sante Magazine for Wine and Spirits named him Chef of the Year 2001, and the Inaugural 2001 Wedgewood Awards nominated him as one of 10 U.S. chefs for the title of World Master of Culinary Arts. In 2003, Bon Appetit Magazine recognized Chef Wong among its culinary legends as the ‘Master of Hawaii Regional Cuisine’.
Alan Wong’s Restaurant opened in April of 1995 and in 1996 it received a James Beard Foundation nomination for the nation’s ‘Best New Restaurant’. It was honored in Gourmet Magazine’s October 2001 issue, ranking #6 of ‘America’s Best 50 Restaurants’ and in 2002 was inducted into Nation’s Restaurant News Magazine’s Hall of Fame. In its May 2006 issue, Food and Wine Magazine included the restaurant among its ‘The Go List of 376 Hottest Restaurants in the World’ and in that same year was again the only Hawaii restaurant to be ranked among ‘America’s Best 50 Restaurants’ (#8) by Gourmet Magazine. It is a ten-time winner of the Hale ‘Aina Award as the state’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’. Voted by the Ilima Awards as Hawaii’s ‘Best Restaurant’ for nine years, Alan Wong’s Restaurant was inducted into its inaugural ‘Star Circle’ established for ten-time winners in 2008. Today, the restaurant continues to receive top ratings in Zagat, Gault Millau and Wine Spectator.
In September 1999, The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong opened at Macy’s in the Ala Moana Shopping Center, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and offering banquet facilities and catering services. That same year, Chef Wong authored a cookbook “Alan Wong’s New Wave Luau” published by Ten Speed Press and in December 2010 released his newest cookbook “The Blue Tomato - The Inspirations Behind the Cuisine of Alan Wong” (Watermark Publishing).
Chef Wong believes in giving back to the community and the profession. He serves on the boards of Easter Seals Hawaii, the Hawaii Seafood Promotion Committee, Leeward Community College and the Culinary Institute of the Pacific food service programs, and the Hawaii Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. He was honored in 2001 by Kapiolani Community College and in 2002 by the University of Hawaii as its Distinguished Alumnus and for his contributions to the State of Hawaii.
Using fresh, local products whenever possible, pairing them with local flavors, Chef Wong defines his style of Hawaii Regional Cuisine as the contemporary style of cooking that borrows from all of the ethnic influences found in Hawaii today. Creating innovative dishes with a contemporary twist, his goal is to have his guests “Taste Hawaii”. His restaurants express a casual yet elegant ambience and welcome their guests with Hawaiian-style hospitality and the ‘Aloha Spirit’.
LOCAL PRESENTING SPONSOR
Press & Media
- Community Action Partnership of Orange County: CAPOC changes peoples lives, embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities and makes America a better place to live.The agency cares about the entire community, and is dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other.
- Second Harvest Orange County Food Bank: Founded by the Council of Orange, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Food Bank began providing food for the hungry in October 1983 in Orange, under the leadership of Dan Harney. In 2007, the Food Bank moved to a new facility in Irvine on the old El Toro Marine Base, more than doubling its capacity to meet the needs of Orange County's hungry during the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression. In 2012, the Food Bank became an independent 501c3 corporation. Since its founding, the Food Bank has provided more than 272 million pounds of donated and surplus food to local charities.