After narrowly escaping the Thomas Fire of 12/17, and suffering the brutal loss of half of its historic property to the virulent mudslides that plagued the fair Montecito Hills last January 2018, San Ysidro Ranch, Luxury Hotel, will be officially, and gloriously, re-opened this March 2019.

CW Magazine reached out to the famed “institution’s”, Executive Chef, Matt Johnson, for his take on “returning home,” standing at the culinary helm of landmark resort, his menu creation and execution at The James Beard Awards, and getting to the heart of the distinction of California Cuisine.

Owned by the mogul of the Beanie Baby craze, Ty Warner, renowned for hosting multitudes of high profile celebrities, politicians and royalty. San Ysidro Ranch sprawls exquisitely over 500 acres that open to the ocean. It offers a jaw-dropping variety of top drawer-country chic cottages, suites, wedding venues, and multiple award-winning (*World’s #1 Resort” by Forbes Traveller) restaurants (Stonehouse, Plow & Angel.) ‘The Ranch,’ as folks ‘in the know,’ refer to it, offers the kind of uber-high-end, private luxury that icons like Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Winston Churchill, and President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy  (who enjoyed their honeymoon here) coveted historically.  Incidentally, due to their notorious reputation of privacy, “The Ranch” would not share the current A-Lister clientele with CW Magazine.

San Ysidro Ranch’s brilliant and down to earth Executive Chef,
Matt Johnson, was kind enough to offer CW Magazine his unique chef viewpoint during the exciting and assiduous re-opening countdown.

Can you speak to the meaning of California Cuisine?

“Californian cuisine embodies dishes that are driven by local and sustainable ingredients with attention to the seasons. Also, it is a fusion cuisine derived from all the countries of the world.”

Distinction–SoCal NorCal Cuisine?

“NorCal has at least 12 three, Michelin star restaurants and SoCal has way better Mexican food which I prefer. And we have the Dodgers.”

You’ve been with Ysidro Ranch since 2008, what are some exciting elements of the re-opening?

“It has been amazing, like coming home after a long time away. A lot of work on everyone’s part went into the reopening, and although it was a horrible tragedy that happened, it now looks better than ever. It has been very exciting working on the menus: having a fresh start with new dishes and new equipment and new staff.”

Please share about how your herbs and vegetables are grown in your organic gardens?

“Our garden is in the center of our property, a short walk up from the restaurants. We will have a chef’s gardener who works with me on seasonal menus needs. This spring we will grow Peas, Beans, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Kohlrabi, and many others as well as lots of herbs. We also have a bunch of Meyer Lemon Trees and Fig Trees as well as all

 (*The ranch was originally part of a 1769 land grant by Charles III of Spain, served as a sanctuary for Franciscan monks before becoming a citrus operation, and then eventually a hotel.)

Parmesan Crusted Halibut by Chef Matt Johnson from San Ysidro Ranch, CA. 

What’s the biggest draw to the Ranch in your view?

“The biggest draw to the San Ysidro Ranch is its serenity. Just being able to relax with amazing views and peacefulness.”

Do you take advantage of all The Ranch has to offer, or are you just too busy?

“I definitely do not take advantage of all the ranch has to offer unless it is in the kitchen. This is where I spend my days and nights. Someday I will cannonball into the pool.”

Word on CW?

“I buy almost everything from The Chefs’ Warehouse. I do a dish: Pan Roasted  Scallops with Charred Romanesco, Braised Oxtail, King Oyster Mushrooms, Pea Shoots, Corn Puree and Black Garlic Vinaigrette. I get the Black Garlic from Chefs’ Warehouse and is really amazing. It is a dish that we will be featuring in the Spring.”

Tina Roberts,
Regional Vice President, SoCal, The Chefs’ Warehouse

Spring is a truly magical time of year! With longer days there is plenty of time to check out new innovative restaurants and venues for weekend brunch. When the sun returns (after the wettest winter on record for
Southern California and the entire Southwest, snow dusting the hills around Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco,) everything is re born and renewed. It’s a time for revitalized energy, fresh starts and planting the seeds for new ideas.

How about springing for new ingredients on your menu? We have plenty of delicious sheep and goat cheeses to choose from. What about our earthy EVOO finishing oils imported from Italy? Whether you’re topping spring greens or fresh fish, our trained Chef sales consultants will pair the best ingredients with your amazing creativity!

Allow your menu to truly blossom this sunny season by jumping over to our website and browsing the many offerings, now available for order online at!