By Linda Domingo
With breathtaking ocean views and elegant craftsman-style architecture, Studio at Montage Laguna Beach isn’t a difficult sell. That doesn’t keep Executive Chef Craig Strong from continuously pushing the boundaries of the Forbes Five-Star restaurant, which has earned numerous accolades from publications such as the Robb Report, Food & Wine magazine and Wine Spectator.
“It’s the only job I’ve ever had,” says Strong, who has worked in the culinary industry since he was 15 years old. Since then, he’s worked and trained with some of the most respected chefs and restaurants in the country, and was a semifinalist in the 2009 and 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards for Best Chef/Pacific. “I fell in love with the whole dynamic of how restaurants work and the teamwork. … It’s kind of a mixture of football, ballet and the orchestra, all blended together.”
The chef’s innovative spirit shines through in every dish at Studio, where locals can choose from a menu of modern, French cuisine with California flair, or leave it up to Strong and his culinary team by reserving time at the Chef’s Table. Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival attendees will also get a sneak peek at Strong’s process in the Grand Tasting Pavilion on Sunday, Oct. 4. Newport Beach Magazine got to know Strong a little better in preparation for the big event.
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH CRAIG STRONG
What is your comfort food?
What’s your current favorite ingredient to work with?
Carnival Amaranth. It’s a beautiful type of lettuce that goes on my swordfish dish.
Three most important cooking tools?
A sharp chef knife—find one you like and spend a little money on it. … The second is a cheap serrated paring knife. … When they wear out, just throw them away. For under $10, you don’t feel bad for [getting] two years of good work out of it. Also, Le Creuset pots for even cooking; I love slow braised items in them.
What did you make for dinner last night?
My wife made me a pasta dish. It is always great when someone cooks for me.
If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Hands down, roasted chicken with garlic and herbs. It’s great comfort food and leftovers make great tacos. (See answer No. 1.)
30801 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
NEWPORT BEACH WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL
Newport Beach Magazine is a sponsor of the 2015 Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival.