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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Introducing the Chefs at Cannery Row Brewing Company and 1833

Mark Ayers (above) has more than a decorated resume, the respect of chefs and anyone with tastebuds across the county and country, and the best burger on the Peninsula (ironically enough, I had his unmatched California Market burger with Gruyere Monday for lunch—only Ventana's comes close). He's got a new job. Which, for those seated at the kids' table, is huge epicurean news locally.

Ayers has earned and honored one of the better chef gigs between San Francisco and L.A. for years, helming the two Monterey County Hyatt properties, which each boast multiple venues and include longtime lavish landmark Pacific's Edge in the Highlands (622-5445) and newer sleek sibling TusCA in the Hyatt Monterey (372-1234).

Now he'll steer the kitchen at the month-away-from-opening Cannery Row Brewing Company in the historic brick building that once housed O'Kane's and Willy's Smokehouse, a venue which Coastal Luxury Management hopes will redefine Northern California brewhouses and casual dining with help from the greatest number of beers on tap in the the region and a gourmet approach to accessible food. Think Yardhouse in L.A. with a fine-dining approach to classic blue-collar tastes a la Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc. Inspiration, in fact, was borrowed from both.

One of the stated goals, among many, at CRBC: to have the best burger, bar none, in the area. My Monday lunch tells me they've got the right guy there. That Ayers is willing to walk away from such a solid job with the Hyatt, meanwhile, tells you something about the upside he sees with the CLM team.

That upside will mean a lot more than cheffing at CRBC. He'll also coordinate chefs at Pebble Beach Food & Wine, where his Masters of Food & Wine experience with Pacific's Edge will come in handy, and mastermind special dinners at private venues.

And there's more big news where that came from: CLM will name the executive chef for 1833 with the same announcement. Tim Mosblech [above, far left, with the PBF&W team of (L-R from there) Ayers, David Bernahl, Rob Weakley, new CRBC GM Ed Hancock and restaurant exec Gary Obligacion] has everything they want for their flagship spot in the former Stokes and longtime Gallatin's, including:

• Killer credentials: He's worked at multiple three-Michelin-star restaurants in three different European countries, and with Laurent Gras of L20 in Chicago, gaining a discipline to execute the most sophisticated plates—though that's not the goal here, where the best description might be carefully crafted rustic: 1833 aims to do a sexy, big city, seasonal, fresh menu that echoes the storied history of the building, which changed owners for the first time in over a hundred years with the sale to CLM, who in turn named the restaurant after the year the building was finished. Items on the wine list and menu will reflect the influence of the predominant populations at that point in time on the Peninsula, primarily Spanish and Italian. More from Mosblech on what he wants to do soon.

• County ties and a nose for wine: After working with Walter Manzke at L'Auberge in Carmel, he later took time off from the kitchen to make wine with Joullian Wine's Ridge Watson. "Talk about a chef who has a better understanding of wine with food," Bernahl says.

• Work ethic combined with personality. "It was about finding a careful balance, someone who can grow with us, take on more projects, and someone that fits with team," Bernahl says. "And he does—he's a rock star, instantly likeable, likes to have fun, but at the end of day is serious about what he does, which fits in with our culture."

That culture is live. As CLM keeps cooking, expect more stir-the-pot news soon.