Executive Chef Craig Strong brings his modern French cuisine with California influences to Studio at the Montage in Laguna beach

By  | 
New Caledonian Prawns (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

New Caledonian Prawns (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

“People want French food to maintain its traditional rich taste,” says Executive Chef Craig Strong.  “But at the same time, they also want it to be light.”

I love French cuisine with with its rich butters and savory sauces, but I must say that when I was getting ready to have dinner at Studio, I was a little worried about the added calories.  “How many miles would I have to jog tomorrow to work it off?” I thought.

As my husband and I were shown to our table, we were in awe of the stunning views of the Pacific ocean from this restaurant perched high on a cliff.  I couldn’t help but think that it couldn’t get any better than this.  But then the white linens, fine crystal, expensive dinnerware, music, candlelight and little bunnies running on the perfectly manicured lawn outside had me believing I was in some kind of magical fairy tale.

Soon, I noticed chef Strong making his way around the dining room greeting guests.  As he made his way over to my table, he explained how much he loved growing up in San Diego and was so happy to be back.

Not as happy as I was.  Strong uses fresh and local ingredients, keeping that traditional French taste with a fresh California touch. The food is beautifully presented, and the flavors are unsurpassed. All I can say is go try it for yourself and tell Chef Strong I sent you.

And guess what?  I didn’t have to take that morning jog after all…..even better!

Summer Peach Napoleon (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Summer Peach Napoleon (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

About chef Strong:

Executive Chef Craig Strong joined Montage Laguna Beach as Executive Chef of Studio in June 2009.

Chef Strong, known for his modern French cuisine with California influences, developed a love for cooking at an early age. One of eight children growing up in San Diego, he was inspired by his mother and grandmother to first experiment with tomatoes and zucchini grown in the family’s vegetable garden that was his to manage. At age 19, he attended L’Academie de Cuisine near Washington, D.C., where he studied under some of the most respected chefs in the area, including Chefs Françoise and Pascal Dinot.

Most recently, Chef Strong was Chef de Cuisine to what is now The Langham, Huntington Hotel & Spa’s Dining Room in Pasadena, Calif. During his eight-year tenure, he was responsible for all facets of the restaurant, including menu design and development. Under his direction, The Dining Room became one of Los Angeles’ top destination dining venues and a showcase for his love of pairing fine food with wine in ever-changing dishes, inventive tasting menus for winemaker dinners and delicious special events. He and the restaurant received many accolades, including Michelin One-star ratings in 2007and 2008; Gourmet Magazine ’60 World’s Best Hotel Dining Rooms,’ Los Angeles Times 3 Star Rating, Food & Wine ’50 Best Hotel Restaurants’ and California Homes Magazine ‘#1 Hotel Restaurant.’ Strong was named runner-up Chef of the Year by Angeleno Magazine; was a semi finalist in the 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards for Best Chef/Pacific.

Courtesy photo

Executive Chef Craig Strong (Courtesy photo)

From 1990 to 1994, Chef Strong held numerous culinary positions, including Saucier at La Caille in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah; the Capitol Club at Hyatt Regency, Washington, D.C.; Sous Chef at the fine dining Glitretind Restaurant at Stein Erikson Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah; First Assistant to Chef at the Adams Mark Hotel in Philadelphia, and then at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, where he honed classic techniques with Asian influences. In 1995, he moved to Atlanta to work at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, as Garde Manger with Chef Guenter Seeger and then as Saucier and Tournant with Chef Joel Antunes, whose classically trained French background added yet another international dimension to Strong’s style.

Chef Strong then moved to Europe as Sous Chef for The Newport Room at the Hotel Arts in Barcelona, the fine dining restaurant in a property managed by Ritz-Carlton. Working in Spain added another facet to Chef Strong’s cooking. The emphasis on olive oil, fresh seafood and the Mediterranean climate, similar to that of Southern California, led Chef Strong to embrace the bold flavors and rustic style of Spanish cuisine, adding the refinement of French techniques.

Hamachi Sashimi (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Hamachi Sashimi (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

The concept and overall experience of Studio is dedicated to highlighting the best this idyllic location has to offer – pristine ingredients from local purveyors, unsurpassed views of the Pacific Ocean and an elegantly comfortable approach to the dining experience.

Studio at Montage Laguna Beach has most recently been recognized with Three Stars from Los Angeles Times, Five Stars from Mobil Travel Guide, Robb Report as one of ‘America’s Finest Dining Restaurants,’ and Food & Wine Magazine’s ‘Top 50 Hotel Restaurants’. Studio has also earned the ‘Best of Award of Excellence’ from Wine Spectator and is rated one of Zagat Survey’s ‘America’s Top Restaurants’.  (About chef strong information above is courtesy of the Montage website.)

Maria Desiderata Montana is an award-winning food and wine journalist, editor, and published author based in San Diego. She gained an appreciation of European cuisine from her parents who were born and raised in Calabria, Italy. Visit her website at www.sandiegofoodfinds.com.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *