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Bob Van de Veer and Adele Sun at the Hungry Cat.

Paul Wellman

Bob Van de Veer and Adele Sun at the Hungry Cat.


Shake-Ups at Hungry Cat, Cádiz, and Intermezzo

A Look Inside the Evolving Kitchens at Three Santa Barbara Hot Spots


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A funny thing happened at a recent open house at Cádiz, held to mark celebrated chef John Pettitt’s reworked menu and a fresh bar program conceived by newly recruited mixologist Sean Sepulveda: A head popped out of the kitchen window that I recognized … from the Hungry Cat. Which made me wonder: What else is changing in S.B.’s kitchens? Quite a bit, as it happens. Here’s the current shakedown:

Nik Ramirez, sous chef under Brandon Hughes at Wine Cask for the past two years, is ready to fly and, while still maintaining that position, will also step up — and into his own — as chef at a newly expanded Intermezzo. Hawaiian-born Ramirez, who spent time playing semi-pro soccer in Romania and, it’s worth noting, bears more than a passing resemblance to Slash, brings a passion for sticking to what’s organic and sustainable, an aloha attitude, and an inspired creativity. (See: beer-steamed mussels with truffle-vanilla velouté.) In its expanded space — that includes a big-screen TV — Intermezzo now offers a distinctly more upscale option when you’re looking for somewhere to chill while watching, say, the World Series (insert gratuitous Go Giants! here). …

Meanwhile, over at Cádiz, Pettitt (himself a vet of countless S.B. institutions) still holds the reins and continues to implement smart and surprising new items (“New? How about bringing back that egg-octopus-bean appetizer?” I begged, somewhat shamefully. Perhaps now that it’s in print, he’ll consider it?), all while running a semi-regular pop-up dinner operation in British Colombia and plotting the launch of a new breakfast, lunch, and coffee spot on Milpas. Meanwhile, Sepulveda, whose résumé includes stints at both SOhO and Cielito, is settling into his new gig behind the bar. (There will be bourbon.) …

Back at the Hungry Cat, the recent departure of chef de cuisine Gavin Parsons (to sail around the world, lucky bastard), followed last week by the more sudden exits of both the head chef and kitchen manager, left some high-profile openings that were quickly filled: Adele Sun, a transplant from the Santa Monica Canyon location whose background includes sous chef positions at Craft and The Water Grill, will replace Parsons (yay for women chefs!), while Bob Van de Veer, of Hungry Cat Hollywood, will come in as the new GM. David Lentz, executive chef and proprietor of the three Hungry Cats (and no stranger to lady chefs — he’s one half of the husband-and-wife team that rule L.A.’s dining scene; wife Suzanne Goin’s coming Montecito restaurant is as hotly anticipated as an order of peel-and-eat shrimp during Happy Hour at the Cat), will be around to oversee the transition and says patrons of his S.B. outpost can expect other changes, as well — including more frequent rotation of menu items — though no changes to the focus on fresh S.B. seafood nor to the technique that’s been known to make grown men purr.

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