Celebrity chef Curtis Stone’s frequent TV appearances, spanning from Top Chef Masters to the Today show, make him a familiar face. But Stone is crafting food in Los Angeles that deserves a close-up.
He debuted his first restaurant, Maude (named after his paternal grandmother), in Beverly Hills in 2014 and then followed it up with the meat-centric Gwen (his maternal grandmother) in Hollywood two years later. In 2018, Stone decided to reinvent Maude, taking its set menu from an ingredient-driven offering to one that celebrates wine regions.
Each quarterly menu homes in on a different destination — in January, it launched with Rioja; then in April, it went north to Burgundy. It stayed domestic in July with California’s Central Coast, a gorgeous, rugged stretch between L.A. and San Francisco that’s packed with towering redwoods, untamed beaches and underrated vineyards.
Stone traversed this area to discover pristine seafood and intoxicating wines for his summer menu (which runs through September), and the Melbourne, Australia, native shared his favorite finds with us. Learn where to go for some mouthwatering cheese, which hotel Stone wants to steal a duvet from and the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant that he’s crazy about.
Why did you decide to focus on the Central Coast for Maude’s most recent menu?
California was hit hard by Mother Nature over the last year. Many of the farmers who we visit every week at the farmers markets were affected by the fires and mudslides. After our first trips to Rioja and Burgundy with the new quarterly wine menu concept, we thought it was really important to stay close to home and bring attention to the wine region in our own backyard. The winemakers, purveyors and farmers in the Central Coast are friends, and any way we can help them back on their feet, we wanted to do that.
What kinds of great food did you find in this area?
The shellfish is just phenomenal on the coast. Expect the summer menu to be straight from the sea with abalone, uni, mussels, oysters, squid, crab and spot prawns.
What were the highlights of your Central Coast trip?
We met Stephanie Mutz, the only female uni diver in the state, and tasted sea urchin off the back of her boat straight from a dive. It’s such a luxury and a quintessential ingredient from the region — so much so that we’re featuring it in two courses on the summer menu.
The culinary team also spent one morning at Stepladder Creamery. It’s a small ranch in Cambria run by husband-and-wife team, Jack and Michelle Rudolph. With citrus orchards and avocado groves that their pigs graze on, the highlight is their goats. We’re using their ash-coated triple crème for the cheese course.
Do you visit the Central Coast often?
It’s beautiful there, and I get up there when I need a quick weekend getaway. My wife, Lindsay [Price], and I were actually married in Santa Barbara before heading to Spain for the wedding.
What are your favorite Central Coast restaurants?
I’m mad for [Five-Star] Aubergine in Carmel. Chef Justin Cogley is a good mate, so I took the team there the penultimate evening of the trip. He is using the best ingredients from the area, and I predict you’re going to be hearing his name a lot in the future.
What are some noteworthy vineyards you visited in the region?
We were incredibly lucky to meet Mike [Brughelli] and Mikey [Giugni] from Scar of the Sea the first day on the trip and discovered the wine that will be part of the dessert pairing. The wine team also found great additions to the pairings at Palmina, Ridge and Liquid Farm, among others.
What are the wines like in the Central Coast?
The beauty of the Central Coast is the expansive variety of grapes. The region is probably best known for its chardonnay, pinot noir and syrah. Winemakers are producing some amazing French and Italian varietals.
Did you find any excellent stores during your trip?
I’m a coffee fanatic — I suspect most chefs are with our crazy hours. We visited Handlebar Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara. They’re roasting some great beans in an old German roaster, some of which we used in an affogato on the trip.
Any favorite hotels in the region?
The Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara recently opened, and it’s fab. The team stayed here on the first leg of the trip. So much is walkable from their front door and I wanted to take one of the duvets home with me.
What kind of activities do you like to do in the Central Coast?
Wine tasting, taco eating and I still surf — though not as much or as easily as I use to!
In the aftermath of the mudslides, how was Santa Barbara faring?
The recovery is going well, and there is a resilient bunch of hardworking people banding together to revitalize the area. It’s incredible to be even a small part of that.
Why should people visit the Central Coast?
I think many people think “Napa” when they think of California wine. The Central Coast is a bit of a hidden gem with not only wine but some of the state’s best produce. It’s also much closer to Los Angeles and super convenient for weekend getaways from SoCal.
Where are you traveling to next?
Piedmont, Italy! For our last menu of the year.
What upcoming projects do you have?
I’ve launched Curtis Stone Events. So many people were eager for us to take the restaurant experience outside of the dining room and into their home, but we also made recent appearances at music festivals such as Coachella and Arroyo Seco. I also finished taping Top Chef Junior, where I’m head judge, which will air in September.