"When you ask who's doing it right, I immediately think of Ember. They're in Arroyo Grande, which is not far, just like 15 minutes outside of San Luis. If somebody is coming to SLO, they absolutely have to go there. It's everything wood-fired. The owner Brian Collins was the chef at Chez Panisse and worked for Alice Waters so he was a part of the original farm to table movement, and everything there is so well thought out. They have amazing beers on tap, their menu changes every month and it's all made in the wood fire oven. They're just great and they really kind of brought something new and fresh to the coast. I'm just so proud of them! They opened up around the same time as us at Scout Coffee so I feel like we're related. Go to Ember!"
"I just love restaurants. As a kid, I remember going out to eat once a week with my family and picking a different restaurant and it was just so fun to experience that and talk about it with my family.
For me, my love of food really hit home while working at Chez Panisse and on a trip to Italy. My aunt is from Rome, and we stayed with their family, where they cooked this incredible meal. It was unlike any other dinner I've ever had.
The joy of dining, and of bringing people together, is what drives me.
It was in Italy where I saw how the food is so ingrained in the culture. There's a bakery, the butcher, the wine shop - everybody had their specialty and they place such an importance on the meal and the quality of the ingredient. Going forward I was like, 'OK, that's my inspiration. This is what I want to do.'
You have to just go for it at some point. My wife and I live a couple of blocks away from this place.
I knew in the back of my mind, 'If I don't do this, if I don't open my own place, I'm going to regret it for the rest of my life, and I'm not getting any younger. It's going to take a lot of work, but let's do it, right now.
From there, my dad and I built the restaurant together - designed it, all that. Some of the cooks in our kitchen started early and helped us finish everything. Our sous-chef was a carpenter, so he did all the woodworking. Ember is our passion project. A lot of love went into this place."
Best Advice I've Received
"If you want something, work hard for it. Don't wait for somebody to hand it to you. I feel lucky that I really fell in love with what I do, so I'd tell others,
don’t take a career for money. Do it because you love it, and if you love it, you’ll become an expert at it and the money will come."
My Advice for Other Chefs
"Early in my career, I picked jobs where I took it seriously like it was an apprenticeship. I learned the basics and built a broad foundation so I could keep stacking things on top.
I always knew I wanted to have my own restaurant, and that job at Chez Panisse was where I learned how to cook and how to taste, how to cook with the seasons and with a wood-burning oven and grill. The flavors were so honest and authentic that I knew that would be the backbone of my inspiration in cooking."