The restaurant, set to open this fall, stays true to Strong’s penchant for pristine ingredients.
n the nine years that Chef Craig Strong has headed the kitchen at Montage Laguna’s Studio, we’ve delighted in his tasting menus (love those cherries with the Hudson Valley foie gras) and indulged in his artful presentation of delicacies like Japanese wagyu (accompanied by baby veggies picked fresh from the garden, of course). His talent has helped the restaurant earn a fair share of accolades, including five stars from Forbes. And, now, Strong is poised for his next challenge – as the chef and owner of his own restaurant, Ocean at Main, set to open this fall at 222 Ocean Ave., in Taverna’s former spot. Strong and his team will be serving up a seasonally changing menu that celebrates California’s bounty of local ingredients. (And he’s tapped Dylan Cloughen of the Mina Group to help him lead the operation as his GM.) We caught up with Strong in between his visits to the new spot (it’s undergoing a little refresh by Laurie Alter of Tuvalu Home) and asked him to answer five easy questions.
We’ve always loved your garden at Studio. Are you taking it with you?
I wish I could! But I will continue to work with the local agricultural community and regional purveyors I’ve worked with over the years – and look for spots around the restaurant to grow a few items.
Did you ever dine at Taverna?
Yes, I ate there a few times before it closed.
Ever think it would one day be yours?
I do recall seeing Taverna under construction a few years back and thinking what a sweet spot that would be. Now, it’s a dream come true!
What scares you most about opening your own restaurant?
The unknown scares me most. This is so different from what I’ve done throughout my career. At the same time, it’s an incredible and exhilarating experience – kind of like hitting reset on your career.
What excites you most?
Continuing to be part of the Laguna Beach community excites me most – I love living here. I’m also excited about opening my own business, thinking outside the box and continuing to learn and grow as a chef/owner. And I can’t wait to welcome everyone into the new Ocean at Main!