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 in the course of 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.
Among the many marquee names: Christopher Kostow, the manager chef of California’s three-Michelin-starred paragon of effective 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 high 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 hearth, 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 have been open.
It turned out that Howard Backen, the identical architect accountable 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 group 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 within the Nineteen Thirties: rolling hills, rustic, actually bucolic.”
The partnership between the Restaurant at Meadowood and the Ojai Valley Inn exemplifies an accelerating development: within 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, in search of to make up for misplaced income, desirous to discover new markets or just craving a chance to check out new issues, well-regarded cooks are flocking to lodges not essentially identified for his or her delicacies. Final yr chewed up and spit out the fine-dining playbook: now, there’s a chance for reinvention.
“Serving outdoors on a garden or in an area that’s not your personal is just not splendid, 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 believe the consequence, post-pandemic, relating to effective eating, shall be extra license, extra fluidity. All of the outdated guidelines are blown up, at this level.”
“The Restaurant at Meadowood Residency” started on March 3. Over the course of 5 weeks, it acquired the culinary equal of a standing ovation: all 44 dinners Mr. Kostow presided over on 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 throughout 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 possibly can cost for a dinner anyplace. It reveals you the way a lot of a requirement there may be, and it speaks to individuals desirous to get out and help a enterprise that they really feel is deserving.”
Certainly one of Mr. Kostow’s March dinners in Ojai supplied 13 programs, a number of pours of wine, and, perhaps most significantly, the chance to decorate up and folks watch (from properly over six ft away). It felt like the alternative 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.”
In addition to Mr. Kostow, the Farmhouse has performed host to cooks similar 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 just lately honored by World’s 50 Greatest, one of many hospitality trade’s main scores 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 time and fall, comparable visitor chef-resort collaborations are within the works:
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 approach of marking her restaurant’s tenth anniversary, and as a part of the celebration, she’s organizing volunteering actions within the Los Cabos group by a neighborhood group, and inspiring dinner attendees to hitch her.
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 companion Johno Morisano shall be touring from their residence base, Savannah, Ga., to Austin this summer time and fall to launch two eating places on the soon-to-open Thompson resort, which guarantees friends “mid-century fashionable 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.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten on the One&Solely Palmilla, San José del Cabo, Mexico
Given the recognition of Los Cabos amongst People, who make up the majority of the area’s worldwide vacationers, and its proximity to the US, 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 on the One&Solely Palmilla, on the Sea of Cortez. At one of many property’s eating places, Suviche, he’ll riff on conventional sushi and ceviche, at one other, he’ll see to the searing of steaks because the waves crash and recede: surf and turf, à la Jean-Georges.
High-tier cooks at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
There shall be no scarcity of star cooks on the Waldorf Astoria in Los Cabos this yr: June brings Chicago native Stephanie Izard, a a number of James Beard Award winner and the primary girl 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 successful Chicagoans, Sarah Grueneberg and Mindy Segal, and in November, “High Chef’s” Brian Malarkey will come on down from California. The Waldorf is looking it their Culinary Weekend Sequence and plans to proceed these stints with notable cooks into 2022.
April Bloomfield on the Mayflower Inn & Spa, Washington, Conn.
On the Michelin-starred Breslin and the now-closed Noticed 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 workers. She discovered one within the Mayflower Inn & Spa, an Auberge resort within 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 on the Mayflower this yr.” She is, fairly actually, placing down roots. Present menu highlights embrace cauliflower tikka masala and pan-roasted lamb chops with burnt satsuma and pistachio.
“It’s meant quite a bit,” Ms. Bloomfield mentioned of her residency. “I’ve been in a position to 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.”