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 Dionet.
Prior to joining Studio at Montage Laguna Beach, 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 Forbes Five Star in 2009.
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.
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 has been recognized with Five Stars from Forbes Travel Guide, Three Stars from Los Angeles Times, 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’s “America’s Top Restaurants.”