Celebrity chef Curtis Stone
Despite two enormously successful restaurants creating a buzz throughout LA, Curtis Stone isn’t sitting still. Shonagh Walker toured California’s Central Coast with the celebrity chef, to uncover exactly what’s in store for his diners for the remainder of 2018.
Curtis Stone is standing waist deep in the freezing seawater of Morro Bay, CA, shucking a Pacific Gold Oyster that he’s just plucked from the farm’s submerged harvest. He hands it to me, beaming his signature smile. Exhaustion is tugging at the corners of his sparkling blue eyes, but enthusiasm for the deep-cupped mollusc quickly turns them upwards again.
We are at the tail end of a hectic 18 hours a day, five-day immersive tour of California’s Central Coast, a region famed for its local produce, stellar seafood and mind-blowing wines (divine Burgundian varietals: Pinot Noir to die for and an incredible array of Chardonnay). The aim is to seek inspiration for the upcoming menu of his Beverly Hills fine dining restaurant, Maude. While the seafood and seasonal offerings of this region are truly unsurpassed, if I’m being honest, we are really here for the wines.
You see, Curtis has yet again disrupted the concept of conventional fine dining and, as with everything he does, he’s done so with gusto. Where traditional menus decree full control to the chef, demanding wine pairings are made to meld with cuisine creativity, Curtis abdicated to Head Sommelier, Andrey Tolmachyov. The 26 year old now has the enviable task of travelling to the world’s best wine regions to curate a list based around the finest on offer. First, it was Rioja, Spain. Then came Burgundy, France and this quarter (July to September) it’s the sun-spoiled Central Coast of California.
After each meticulous research trip, Tolmachyov curates the wines he is to feature for the three months. From there, Curtis and executive chef, Justin Hilbert devise a menu using ingredients from the same region to enhance the drops.
It’s a change of tack for Maude, which for the past four years has focused on one ingredient per month and created a degustation experience around it, with wines stepping up only to match the food.
Curtis explains: “After doing 48 menus with no dish repeated, we wanted something completely new. The wine program had really blossomed, with such amazing and talented sommeliers, but the pairings were always done last. We decided work backwards; go to a wine region, be inspired by the wine and the local regionality and dishes, then talk to the wine team about what they wanted and what would pair well with that wine and create a menu from that.”
And here we are, soaking up the afternoon sun, eating freshly shucked oysters and sipping some incredible local drops from nearby family run estate, Demetria in the picturesque town of Los Olivos.
The frutti del mar is a massive hit, as is the wine. While Andrey remains tight lipped on the 2017 Rose, I get a good vibe from Curtis that the oysters will make an appearance on the menu.
Thus far, the trip has taken us through what is undoubtedly some of America’s finest coastline and we have indulged in all manner of delicacy and drinks.
In Santa Barbara, we’ve sampled sea urchin caught by Stephanie Mutz, a rare fishing scientist and the only female sea urchin diver in the state. In Cambria, we’ve indulged in the finest goat milk cheeses from Stepladder Creamery and we’ve sampled more exquisite wines than is fair in one lifetime, from an array of award-winning estates peppered throughout this jewel of a coastline.
We’ve also scoured local farmers markets in San Luis Obispo and eaten at some of the state’s most celebrated restaurants (think: Santa Barbara’s Lark, Paso Robles’ Fish Gaucho and San Simeon’s Ragged Point Restaurant).
It sounds glamorous but it’s actually arduous, demanding and wearying. Pre-dawn starts fused into day-long driving, foraging and physical work. But such is Curtis’ way. He quite simply never stops. There’s no rest for the innovator, as it would be.
The resulting debut Cali Coast dinner at Maude’s a few days later is a true feast of flavours – oyster bread (made using the aforementioned Morro Bay oysters), abalone, rock crab with summer truffles, served with grilled crab mayonnaise and spot prawn with peach fermented in beeswax and, of course, all matched with those delicious wines.
So, if you’re in LA make sure you stop by Maude’s to taste Curtis’ innovative wine-focused menu. Get there now for the Tastes of California, or book in for the next quarter’s food & wine adventure – Italy’s delectable Piedmont province.
Maude is located at:
212S Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 5.30PM- 9.30PM
Tel: + 1 310 859 3418