Mike Madriaga 11:30 a.m., Sept. 23
1500 Ocean hires well-traveled chef
When there’s chef turnover at one of your favorite restaurants, one becomes rightfully concerned. Under former chef de cuisine, Brian Sinnott, The Hotel Del Coronado’s fine dining restaurant, 1500 Ocean (1500 Orange Avenue), gained increased recognition among the foodie sect. It was mentioned in the same company as local top tier dining destinations such as the Marine Room, NINE-TEN, A.R. Valentien, and George’s California Modern. Then, out of the blue, Sinnott went circa 1993-Michael Jordan, retiring from cooking at the height of his popularity.
That shocking turn of events occurred in the spring of 2011. By July, The Del appointed Sinnott’s replacement, former Rancho Valencia and Addison chef Aaron Martinez. A forager who specialized in luxurious modernist fare, his food was impressive. After tasting my way through his menu, I openly sang his praises, and readily answered "1500 Ocean" nearly every time I was asked what really superb, stand-out places I’d eaten at recently. Then, suddenly, he was gone. Time to place the big question mark back on the seaside spot while waiting for someone to come and take over.
Like the ghost of Kate Morgan, the question mark still lingers over The Del, but the landmark hotel recently announced the hiring of their new chef de cuisine, a well-traveled toque with previous workplaces worthy of exclamation points. His name is Robert Hohmann, and he comes to 1500 Ocean after a successful sting as chef de cuisine at famous chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Ristorante in Napa, where he earned a Top 5 Best Chef Pacific nomination from the James Beard Foundation earlier this year. I certainly enjoyed the food there during my last wine-tasting vacation. From 2004 to 2010, he worked as part of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group as the executive sous chef at Yountville’s Bouchon Bistro and chef de partie at Per Se in New York. He’s also worked for the likes of Mario Batali as the sous chef at New York City’s Del Posto.
Hohmann certainly has the pedigree to inspire hopefully anticipation, but you can’t eat a résumé (very bland and far too toothsome). It will be interesting to see and taste the food that he puts out when his menu debuts at 1500 Ocean. That will take place October 1. In the meantime, the menu he's put together for next week's San Diego Restaurant Week previews some of his dishes including a garbanzo bean soup with piquillo peppers and capers, skirt steak with elf mushrooms and bordelaise vinaigrette, and pan-roasted sea bass with turmeric braised turnip and a wild fennel dressing.