Tell us about your past experience all over the globe. What are some memorable lessons/skills you’ve learned along the way?
After I graduated from The Culinary Institute of America, I worked at The Ryland Inn under the direction of Chef Craig Shelton – known for making the farm-to-table concept a nationwide movement. That experience continues to shape me as a chef. Other memorable influences and experience include studying abroad across Europe – from France to Barcelona, and from Madrid to Japan. I also served as opening chef for Dennis Foy and Chef de Cuisine for Tribeca restaurateur David Bouley, while opening his eponymous New Bouley Restaurant in New York City. Throughout all of these experiences, I have learned not to follow cooking trends – as they come and go. The best trend to me is minimalism. I have learned to be very honest – with myself, my team, my cooking, and the guests. Probably the most important lesson I have learned is to be true to the ingredients and the location. Less is always more.
How would you describe the spirit/flavors of the menu at Stonehill Tavern at The St. Regis Monarch Beach?
I would describe the spirit of Stonehill Tavern as inspired and thoughtful – at times playful and unpretentious – and always ingredient-focused. The menu at Stonehill is tavern-style, with twists on the classics. The cuisine is rustic while remaining elegant and minimal. It’s cooking that reflects my own and my team’s personalities. Living in Southern California, we are able to get the freshest, most seasonal ingredients, and keeping them in their purest form really maintains the flavor and integrity of the ingredients. What do you see the “Raj Dixit” tasting menu at Stonehill Tavern looking like? I want to be very thoughtful about each signature “Raj Dixit” tasting menu dish. I have cooked for Lord Rothschild and the Chancellor of Germany, and I think the Stonehill Tavern guest is looking for a unique experience. Most of our guests are celebrating a special occasion, or indulging their passion for food, and I want to make sure our menu creates a lasting memory. My tasting menu will be a clever collaboration of the senses, staying true to the natural flavors of ingredients, and keeping the wine quotient in mind when orchestrating the flow of courses. Every dish will have a story.
When you’re not working what are some of the things you enjoy doing?
I enjoy reading. Right now I’m reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I love listening to music – everything from Rodrigo y Gabriela to Johnny Cash to Bad Religion to Willie Nelson. And, of course, living by the ocean – I actually grew up only 10 minutes from the restaurant in Mission Viejo – I love to spend time at the beach.