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Chefs at the Central Coast Wine Classic

Central Coast Wine Classic Featured Chefs

Chef Brian Collins

Ember
Arroyo Grande, California

Chef Brian Collins

Once word got out that chef Brian Collins was opening a new restaurant in Arroyo Grande, the news spread rapidly throughout the Central Coast. With no notice to the media or public, it has served a record number of diners ever since the day it tried to open quietly on Feb. 5. It’s not a large restaurant and bar but it can comfortably seat 100 people. Here’s the surprise: Those tables are turned over at least three times every night they’re open. I doubt the numbers would differ if it opened seven nights a week. It’s filled with locals from SLO and Santa Barbara counties that include chefs, winemakers, foodies, and some who are just plain curious.

There are plenty of reasons for the excitement over dining at Ember, so named because everything is cooked over fire. I can say from experience, this restaurant is no one-hit-wonder. It was created by a very talented chef who shared his dream with his wife, Harmony, and together they made it come true. They had a lot of help from their families, too.

Watching the enthusiastic diners, it seems that Ember has cast a spell on the Central Coast. Diners willingly queue up for an hour if they arrive after 5 p.m. My first Sunday visit, I thought 4:20 p.m. was early enough, but the dining room was already full, so my husband Dan and I dined in the bar. I’m too impatient to wait in line. So are many others whom I tell to get there early or get there late to avoid the wait.

Because of Collins’ steadfast ethic, everything served in this eatery is housemade from the freshly baked levain bread to the pastas, sauces, dressings, dips, and desserts. Collins hand-selected his team of cooks, and he confidently said of them: “They’ve got my back.” His team of cooks can expertly reproduce his menu whether he’s standing at the helm or not, and I learned while cooking professionally, that’s rare. Collins has established a unique following that few chefs ever earn, and those fans will follow him anywhere. That’s why he could open in a location some people saw as jinxed, and make it a destination for fine dining.

Collins’ composed nature and innate cooking talents are the reasons I respect him so highly. We have one thing in common that led us to our current jobs: We were both inspired by the awesome culinary legend Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. But he was given the opportunity of a lifetime; he was hired by Chez Panisse.

His story began when his mother, Karen Moscatelli Collins, found a cookbook she knew her son, the aspiring chef, would enjoy. The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, by Alice Waters cost her $2 in a second-hand store. I wonder if the thought crossed her mind that it would have an amazing impact on his career. An Arroyo Grande native, he and his wife Harmony were high school sweethearts. At the age of 22 he moved to the Bay Area to attend the California Culinary Academy (CCA), while Harmony studied to become a registered nurse. Their daughter Emma was 1 year old.

“While reading the Chez Panisse cookbook, I thought what an amazing place,” he remembered. At the time Collins was enrolled in the 16-month curriculum at the California Culinary Academy (CCA) in San Francisco. “Ten months before graduation, I went to Berkeley and knocked on the back door at Chez Panisse to see if I could do my internship there.” Chef Gilbert Pilgram checked his books and told Collins, “You just made it; I have one slot left for next year.” Collins worked free one day a week to gain more experience. Passion, determination, dedication—these are the tools necessary for learning if you dream of becoming a star in the culinary world.

“The moment I first walked into the kitchen at Chez Panisse, I thought it smells so good, I wonder what they’re cooking? My first day at work, Alice walked into the kitchen. She was visionary, and when you worked for her she would share her philosophy about food and cooking. She knew what her food should taste like and she had a great palate. She would come through and taste everything, and tell us exactly what was missing. We always cooked with the seasons, not being afraid to improvise, and everything was made from scratch.”

Collins’ passion and willingness to learn, even on his own time, earned him a full-time job at Chez Panisse. He was quickly promoted to the lead line cook position. He stayed with Alice and her extraordinary kitchen team for five years. He left once he decided it was time to return home with Harmony and Emma to work toward his new dream—establishing his own restaurant in Arroyo Grande.

When the Collins returned home in 2005, Windows on the Water chef Pandee Pearson immediately hired him as sous chef. In 2006, Executive chef Evan Treadwell hired him as sous chef to help open Lido at Dolphin Bay. Two years later, Collins moved to Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos where he felt at home.

“There was a big difference at Flatbread. It was focused on what I was trained for at Chez Panisse,” he explained. Calling it a little oasis in the middle of nowhere, Collins found it satisfying to produce a new menu daily featuring the freshest foods from Central Coast farms.

Collins carries more weight on his resume than any other 36-year-old chef I’ve known, and yet remains humble and highly motivated. He has indeed brought a taste of Chez Panisse to SLO County. Every meal at Ember has impressed me with its quality, and I’ve been raving about it. Come back next week for my full review of Ember.

Chef Michael Hutchings

Michael’s Catering
Santa Barbara, California

Hutchings

Our dear long-time friend, Chef Michael Hutchings, has been an integral part of the Central Coast Wine Classic since 1992, coordinating and presenting the Vintage Dinner, as well as an integral part of the Dinner at Hearst Castle for well over ten years, always presenting the hors d’oeuvres for the Champagne reception, sometimes a main course during the Dinner, and again this year an amazing array of superlative such creations for the Champagne Reception. His creations have always been uniformly appropriate and wonderful. We know that you will find them to be so.

Michael is a chef who has paid his dues. Like many other American chefs, he took a job in a restaurant to work his way through college. An accomplished flutist, he planned a musical career. But in the kitchen of Disneyland at the fabled private Club 33, he was taught by the Black Hat Master Chef Rudolph Stoy, and his priorities changed. Michael Hutchings eventually became executive chef of Club 33, then worked under several Los Angeles chefs including James Sly at La Serre (now the owner of Sly’s in Carpinteria), and Jean Grodin, executive chef of L’Orangerie, Los Angeles.

The chef/owner of L’Ermitage, Jean Bertranou, suggested Michael Hutchings go to London to work at Le Gavroche under the Roux Brothers, so in 1978, Michael Hutchings, along with his wife and eight month old child, and modest savings, went to London to work at Le Gavroche. The Roux brothers were so impressed with his seriousness and ability that after only a few months they promoted him to sous-chef and told him that when he was ready for a restaurant in the United States they would back him financially in a partnership. Three years later, following brief stages in the kitchens of Alain Chapel, the Troisgros brothers and Gaston Lenotre, he was ready.

The result was Michael’s Waterside in Santa Barbara. During ten years of operation, Michael’s Waterside was recognized as a leader in contemporary California-French cuisine. After selling the Waterside in 1993, Chef Michael Hutchings hung his toque at the Santa Barbara Polo Club, NationsBank executive dining room, the Tower Club in Charlotte, Kaiser Grill and St. James in Palm Springs. Now, Chef Michael oversees a food consulting and catering service business in Santa Barbara, California.

Some of the highlights of Michael’s career follow:

  • Journeyman in Europe with Albert Roux of Le Gavroche Two Star Michelin
  • Apprenticed in France with Gastone Lenotre, Alain Chapel, Troisgros, Two & Three Star Michelin
  • Michael’s Waterside listings in Mobile Guide, AAA Guide, Zagat Guide, Gault Millaut Travel Holiday Award 1985 to 1992, award discontinued
  • Distinguished Restaurant of North America Award 1993
  • Press credits with Time Magazine, Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appétit, Chocolatiere and others
  • Guest Chef at Beard House in New York 1986 and 1990
  • Guest Chef at Ahwanee Hotel in Yosemite National Park
  • Special Event Coordinator for KCBX public radio at Hearst Castle Historical Monument
  • Chef Coordinator for Central Coast Wine Auction 1992-1997, dinner for 800 guests
  • Guest Chef at “Merci Julia” event celebrating Julia’s 80 birthday in 1992
  • Appeared on “Diner at Julia’s” video magazine with Julia Child
  • Charitable fund raising for Red Cross, United Way, Cancer Society, Juvenile Diabetics Cooking video on CNN, NBC, and in France, Germany and Japan
  • Julia Child’s 40th Anniversary on PBS Beef Bourguignonne event, 2003
  • Continuing Guest Chef Central Coast Wine Classic Dinner at Hearst Castle

Thank you, Michael, for your continuing substantive role in our special Wine Classic culinary presentations. It is always a pleasure to have your good energy and expertise as part of our culinary proceedings and to celebrate our 31st Annual Wine Classic and the 25th Annual Dinner at Hearst Castle. All of Those Incredible Repasts to Which You Substantively Contributed Could Not Have Happened Without Your Focused and Gracious Extraordinary Culinary Expertise! Thank You, Michael!

Michael’s Catering
205 West Montecito Street
Santa Barbara, California

Chef Rick Manson

Chef Rick’s Ultimately Fine Foods
Santa Maria, California

Chef Rick

The Up-Tempo American cooking prepared by one of California Central Coast’s premier chefs, Rick Manson, a long-time friend of the Wine Classic and the community of Avila Beach (At Archie McLaren’s behest, Rick was the Chef for the array of world-class percussionists who were a part of the transcendent Avila Drum Day Healing Percussion Festival in the 1990s!) is a blend of Georgia low country, southern Louisiana, Southwest, and Southern California influences, seasoned with a hint of rhythm and blues, a splash of color, and a touch of irreverence. We welcome Chef Rick again, as he has presented his wondrously flavorful culinary creations for our Auction Luncheon several times, including his remarkable luncheon in 2013.

Chef Rick began earning critical acclaim during his 10 year tenure as executive chef of the King & Prince Hotel on historic St. Simons Island, Georgia. Chef Rick’s Ultimately Fine Foods in Santa Maria, his highly popular restaurant that he closed this past year, consistently earned the “Best Restaurant in Santa Maria” award from the Santa Maria Sun. Central Coast Magazine says “ … thank goodness for something different and intriguing!” Jim Clendenen, of Au Bon Climat Winery in Santa Maria, has said of Rick: “Some people are born into the hospitality industry.”

Chef Rick’s demeanor, his receptiveness and his smile define that. He is an excellent chef, the consummate host and he always delivers a lagniappe (Cajun for something extra special), which transforms your experience with him into something memorable.’’ Rick was named the 2007 Central Coast Wine Classic’s Culinary Honoree by founder Archie McLaren. Selected for his “indefatigable support and enthusiasm in furthering culinary excellence on the Central Coast,” Archie, after whom Chef Rick has named a Creole BBQ Shrimp course, “Archie McLaren’s New Orleans-Style Barbequed Shrimp with Warm Soppin’ Bread,” has said of Rick, “The guy is a Soulful Prince!”

Just to give you an idea of some of Rick’s “favorite things” …

Most engaging and memorable meal: “On Cathy’s and my honeymoon in Paris, I needed a recommendation as to where to take my new wife for her birthday dinner. Our hotel concierge didn’t hesitate a second in suggesting the Michelin 3-star restaurant Tour d’Argent. With a table overlooking Cathedral Notre Dame and the River Seine, from the martinis, “free” hors d’oeuvres, Kir Royales, pressed duck, and white peach flambé, to Cathy throwing rolls at our dining neighbor (It was a wonderful accident! Bell sleeves, you know!), being our honeymoon and her birthday, it was by far the most memorable meal, ever!”

Other chefs he admires: “My friends Marie Will and Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat Winery are two of the greatest cooks (chefs) I’ve ever known, although they don’t work professionally. Locally (the greater Central Coast) I’ve always admired Laurent Grangien of Bistro Laurent in Paso Robles and I have great respect for my peers who I’ve grown up with that are still “swingin’ their whisks,” including Laurent, Ian McPhee, James Sly, and a few of those young guys, Alphonso Curti of Trattoria Uliveto, Clark Staub of Full of Life Foods, and Anthony Endy of Rooney’s Irish Pub. Nationally, I have always loved the food of Dean Fearing, Emeril Lagasse, and Wolfgang Puck.”

Famous people for whom Rick has prepared meals: Jimmy Carter, Tom Petty, Robin Ventura, Herman Munster, Martha Stewart, Boz Scaggs, Jesse Jackson, Jonathan Winters, Jackson Browne, Robert Mondavi, David Crosby, Horace Grant, Metallica and Jimmy Messina. And Music … This engaging fellow is INTO an array of Music! Delta Blues, Zydeco (Queen Ida has dined at his restaurant!), Rock & Roll, Rhythm & Blues, etc. etc. etc. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm …

We know you will be energized and edified by the richly rhythmic quality of Rick’s unique Central California cuisine during his array of Luncheon courses at the Thirty-First Annual Central Coast Wine Classic Rare & Fine Wine & Lifestyle Auction, especially in the rhythmic symbiotic culinary union with his Dear Friend and Ours Chef Frank Ostini.

Chef Rick's Ultimately Fine Foods
Restaurant & Catering
4869 S Bradley Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93455
Phone: (805) 680-7351

Executive Chef Jacob Moss

Lido Restaurant
Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa
Shell Beach, California

Jacob Moss

Lido restaurant at Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa is rapidly gaining a “destination” reputation, not only for its impeccable location and ambiance, but for its fine dining presentation, orchestrated by Chef Jacob Moss and his capable staff. Jacob creates and presents the Winery Dinner for the central Coast Wine Classic on the Friday evening of the event weekend, this year as the last, two, coordinating the menu with the fine wines of Justin Vineyard & Winery west of Paso Robles.

Jacob began his culinary career in the fifth grade when his mom informed him that he would be responsible for one meal a week. Jacob began preparing meals that were both fresh and delicious.

While attending Butte College in Chico, California, Jacob took a part time job in the kitchen of the Canyon Oaks Country Club and the rest, as they say, is history. Discovering a true passion for preparing food, Jacob decided to pursue a formal culinary education and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, California in 2006. As part of that educational experience, Jacob completed a three month externship at Ristorante Rossini located in Florence, Italy. When Jacob returned to America, he was employed by Noe Restaurant located in the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Working alongside Executive Chef Glenn Ishi, Jacob learned the nuances of preparing Neo Bistro cuisine featuring fresh and high quality ingredients.

With an array of new culinary skills, Jacob returned to the Rawbar in Chico and served as their Sous Chef. Working with and learning from Executive Chef, Jorge Vasquez and Master Sushi Chef, Masaki Tanaka, this culinary trio created a menu that has earned the Rawbar the “Best of Chico Award” for the last ten years.

Jacob moved back to the Central Coast of California in 2010 and took on the job as Sous Chef at Café Roma in San Luis Obispo. After only six months, he became the Head Chef and with the Rizzo family, created one of the finest menus of authentic Italian cuisine in the area. Jacob accepted the position as Sous Chef at Lido Restaurant in the Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa in early 2012 and has grown into the role of Executive Chef. He feels honored to be a part of the Lido team and he shares the philosophy of creating an innovative menu with locally cultivated, organic food.

And the Central Coast Wine Classic is honored to have such a special culinary artist create the cuisine for our Annual Justin Winemaker Dinner in Lido at Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa!

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa
Lido Restaurant
2727 Shell Beach Rd, Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Phone: (805) 773-8900

Chef Frank Ostini

Hitching Post II
Buellton, California

ostini

Attending and supporting the Central Coast Wine Classic virtually from its beginning, no individual has been more continuously supportive of the Central Coast Wine Classic than Frank Ostini. His donations to the Live Auction alone have over the years raised over one quarter of a million dollars for the event. Frank is extraordinarily gracious, generous and gregarious when it comes to assisting others, and he does so at a very high level, as The Hitching Post and Hartley-Ostini Wines are held in very high esteem by wine critics, collectors and gourmets alike. Decades prior to the extraordinarily successful film “Sideways,” Frank Ostini was famous among those of us who are his friends for an amazing array of fine food and wine activities.

Frank Ostini grew up in and around the Casmalia Hitching Post, his family’s steakhouse on the Central Coast of California since 1952. Specializing in traditional wood fire barbecue, Frank has expanded his menu to cook most anything over the embers at his Hitching Post II restaurant in Buellton, California. With high acclaim from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Gourmet and Sunset magazines and enthusiastic support from Chefs Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay, Frank has become the regional spokesman for what is popularly known as “Santa Maria Style BBQ,” a feast that features meats grilled over a red oak fire.

Many years ago, Frank expanded his interest in fine wine by being the President of the now historic Central Coast Wine Society. Since 1984 Frank, with partner Gray Hartley, has also made Hitching Post Wines, specializing in Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. Frank has recently received widespread international attention since his Hitching Post II and Hitching Post Pinot Noirs were featured in the aforementioned Academy Award-winning film Sideways. The winery has 800 barrels and produces about 15,000 cases a year. “When we started to make wine, I had one purpose,” says Frank. “To get good wine on my family restaurant’s table- wine that I produced. Doing the food and wine together is all I ever wanted, and it’s still all I really want to do”

Frank Ostini lives near the restaurant in Buellton with wife, Jami and his two children, Gray and Gabriella. When not in the restaurant or working in the winery, Frank is out promoting Santa Maria Style BBQ and Santa Barbara County Wines at charity events across the country. Speaking of Charity Events, Frank ALWAYS donates his time, his food, his wine and his energy to the Central Coast Wine Classic, and this year is obviously no exception, as his combination offering with his dear friend Jim Clendenen, as always, will be one of the most popular offerings in the Auction.

It is with extreme gratitude that we thank Frank for his many, many contributions to the Central Coast Wine Classic, including presenting the Auction Luncheon on a number of occasions, as well as of course presenting superb meat courses at several Hearst Castle Dinners, including this 31st year. We know that you will be comprehensively edified by the gracious and generous and talented Frank Ostini’s expertise and dynamically and graciously interactive good energy!

What a Superlative Team Duet of Chefs for the Rare & Fine Wine & Lifestyle Auction! As fine as it gets! Ultimately Fine for certain!!!

Hitching Post
406 East Highway 246, Buellton, California
(805) 688-0676