Califonia Bountiful

Inn his element

May/June 2022 California Bountiful magazine

Chef enjoys role at coastal resort

Local produce, meats and seafood play starring roles on chef Steve Smith's menus at Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino. Photo: © 2022 Lori Eanes

The conversation with Steve Smith begins on the topic of food—he's a chef, after all—and stays on course until the last few minutes. His 30-plus-year career is ripe with anecdotes and provides plenty of topics to explore. But just as the interview begins to wind down, talk of all things culinary gives way to a quick but animated discussion of U.S. history, from presidents to military campaigns.

"Sometimes I wish I would have become a historian instead of a chef," Smith said.

He laughs, but it's clear the well-traveled Californian finds value in the past as he embraces the present and keeps an eye on the future.

Smith started last June as executive chef of Mendocino's Brewery Gulch Inn, an 11-room resort perched atop a wooded bluff overlooking the Pacific. The classically trained chef says travel to locations including Thailand, Nepal and India has informed his food, which he labels "classic with a twist." His experience ranges from cooking at San Francisco's renowned Stars restaurant to serving as a personal chef to fashion icon Donna Karan.

Using ingredients sourced primarily from local purveyors, Smith and his sous chef prepare lavish breakfasts for Brewery Gulch Inn guests. They also prepare a wide selection of evening appetizers, presented in room-specific "Mendo Boxes" handcrafted from the salvaged redwood used to build the inn.

The food is "definitely top quality here," the chef said, and he enjoys the change of pace a small inn provides. Looking ahead, he laughs again when he says he's flirting with the idea of eventually opening a bed and breakfast—"because it'd be my place, you know, nobody to blame but myself."

Barbara Arciero


Dungeness crab salad with Asian pear, mango and avocado

Local chanterelle mushroom pasta with creamy Cambozola sauce

Applewood smoked bacon wrapped wild mushroom meatloaf

Grilled rack of lamb with cherry, balsamic vinegar and rosemary glaze

Lime and ginger grilled Pacific spotted prawns with cilantro-garlic butter

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