DEL MAR — The kitchen at L’Auberge Del Mar recently welcomed a new executive chef who decided to stir things up earlier this month with the menu.
“I changed the whole thing,” Scott Dolbee said. “I increased the menu, which puts more pressure on the kitchen, but it’s an experience for the cooks.
“They’re learning and thriving, which creates a better experience in the dining room,” he said. “I’m trying to create an excitement about food. The key is to have fun.”
Although Dolbee may be new to Kitchen 1540, he’s no stranger to North County. A 1989 graduate of what is now known as San Dieguito Academy High School, he started his 25-year culinary career when he was 17 as line cook at the Del Mar Hilton across from the fairgrounds.
Learning on the job, mostly at hotels, Dolbee’s training took him to across the country and back, to Colorado, Orange County, Los Angeles, New York, Nantucket and Hawaii. In 2008 he was named executive chef at Four Seasons Resort Whistler, where he earned Canada’s only Five-Diamond distinction. He also managed the resort’s culinary operations during the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
He said he’s happy to be back in Southern California with his wife and three children. When he’s home with them, he rarely leaves work at the office.
“My wife won’t cook for me,” he said. “She says I’m too critical. She cooks for the kids, and I started teaching them to cook.”
Fans of the previous Kitchen 1540 may be surprised with the new menu but they likely won’t be disappointed. Dolbee said his cooking is influenced by everywhere he’s traveled, and when it comes to new dishes he’s always thinking local.
Oysters used in two items on the raw menu come from Carlsbad. Julian apples are featured in a scallop dish. Other area produce is included in nearly every menu item. And the “animal” prime tenderloin, served with onion and grilled romaine, is based on the In-N-Out Burger of the same name.
“My goal is to have explosive flavors in every dish,” he said. “I also like to use modern techniques. Right now I’m into curing. It’s the new salt and pepper. The smoker gets a lot of work here.”
Dolbee’s creations are available throughout the resort and for room service. As with the previous menu, entrees prices do not exceed $32.
Kitchen 1540 opened in November 2008 as part of a $26 million, two-year renovation at L’Auberge. Paul McCabe, who launched the resort’s signature restaurant, recently took the helm at Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe.