Shadowbrook Chef Anthony Kresge
When the announcement appeared that a new executive chef was taking reign at the Shadowbrook Restaurant, Santa Cruz foodies took notice. What could this new culinary expert bring to our acclaimed landmark dining spot? I set out to discover the answer with the assurance that because I already knew Anthony Kresge from his wine sales days, it shouldn’t be too big a problem to land an interview. During a period in his illustrious career, Kresge had taken a break from the kitchen to represent a few Santa Cruz Mountain wineries, including my own, Burrell School and Hunter Hill Vineyards. Yet, I still had to take my place in line with the rest of the reporters.
I spoke with Kresge about how he might adapt the menu and was glad to learn that he had no plan to disrupt 66 years of tradition. He’ll keep popular promotions such as Community Tuesdays, Winemaker Wednesdays and the annual Ultimate Winemaker’s Dinner, but may change the tone of the food offerings.
He searches for a harmonious balance in food by equating it to the components of a glass of wine, identifying similar components such as acid, tannins, sweet or spicy. “The food world is changing dramatically. In the last ten years people have been making valuable choices in their health, such as going gluten-free or vegetarian and they are living longer. I want to create fine dining experiences for different food demands through healthier directions,” he said.
Kim Furman, a regular customer, said, "It's exciting to learn that a restaurant the caliber of The Shadowbrook has hired a chef who will enhance the menu by offering new innovative choices. It’s also reassuring that he is listening to requests of long-standing clientele who want their favorite menu choices to remain and speaks volumes about Chef Anthony's confidence and sensitivities."
Garden on the Roof
Chef Anthony is delighted that he has the ability to use ingredients from the restaurant’s roof top garden when they are at their freshest. Many of the regular menu items and special daily entrees use some of these ingredients every day, including heirloom tomatoes, herbs, chiles, squash and greens.
In the future he envisions a plan to hold a special Garden-to-Plate dinner on the patio, with every dish on the multi-course menu showcasing one ingredient snipped from the rooftop garden “on the spot.” About 35 lucky people will gather there to visit with a guest winemaker and observe the preparation of a main course sourced from the best local ranchers.
Grandma Knows Best
The story of how Kresge landed the coveted position at Capitola’s landmark restaurant can be likened to a fairy-tale, beginning with the inspiration of both of his grandmothers in the kitchen. But it was Grandma Gretchen who had the most impact, by leaving him her countless personally-written cookbooks and recipes.
Beginning his professional career at age 17, he apprenticed at high profile restaurants in Napa Valley, and then attended culinary school at Napa Valley College. Having a passion for surfing, he moved to Santa Cruz, and later went on to earn a Masters Certification in Pastry and Advanced Culinary Arts in Italy.
Taking an 8-year break from the kitchen, he next immersed himself in the Santa Cruz and Monterey wine scene to add another layer of knowledge to his expertise. He then returned to his cooking career, becoming a corporate chef running dining rooms at universities and high tech companies in Silicon Valley.
Once again, Chef Anthony returned to Santa Cruz to make it his permanent home. Grandma Gretchen now re-enters the story. While running the Davenport Deli, Kresge decided to approach friends at a few Santa Cruz restaurants and offer his part-time services as a weekend menu or wine consultant. Not finding the perfect fit, and just as he was about to head home, he felt a strong urge to drop off his resume at Shadowbrook Restaurant. He had no way of knowing that at this exact time, current chef Ashley Hosmer was about to take her leave.
After a few interviews, (actually five), and about the same time that he received an offer for the top spot in the famed kitchen, Grandma Gretchen passed away. Chef Anthony has the clear feeling that she is responsible for opening up this door. He feels certain that she was looking out for him the whole time and even heard her say “You’re going in the direction you were meant to go.”
Welcome, Chef Anthony, and yes, grandmas do know best!