Lead chef will exit Larsen restaurant at Hotel Laguna

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Chef Craig Strong greeted guests in the bar area of Hotel Laguna on Oct. 12, 2021. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

The executive chef at the Hotel Laguna restaurant Larsen said he will depart on Friday, less than a year after reopening the oceanfront eatery.

Chef Craig Strong said he’s accepted a job offer with Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach after a 13-year run in the local restaurant scene. Strong earned a Michelin star in 2008 and 2009 while he was chef de cuisine at what is now The Langham Huntington, Pasadena before bringing his modern French cuisine to Studio at the Montage Laguna Beach.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done,” Strong said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s been well-received by the community. But sometimes opportunities come by and you have to weigh out what’s the best option.”

Strong has been an employee of the Laguna Beach Co., a venture led by CEO Mohammad Honarkar who reopened the first floor of Hotel Laguna in October 2021.

Following the closure of his own restaurant Ocean at Main in February 2020, Strong led the culinary team behind Terra Laguna Beach, [seven-degrees], and seven 7 seven. He had been involved in plans to reopen Hotel Laguna since 2020, helping oversee the renovation of the hotel’s kitchen.

After living five to seven minutes away from all of his Laguna Beach restaurants, Strong says he’s still optimistic after having made the commute through Crystal Cove. He plans to continue living in town with his wife and nine-year-old daughter.

“We love Laguna and I really don’t want to move,” Strong said.

Laguna Beach customers must be members of the Big Canyon Country Club to visit his new restaurant in Newport Beach.

Blake Hiteshew, Strong’s right-hand chef who also worked at Studio for seven years, is expected to take over Larsen’s kitchen.

In a prepared statement, Laguna Beach Co. founder Mohammad Honarkar called Strong a friend and colleague, praising his integral role in relaunching Hotel Laguna’s food and beverage program as well as the company’s other restaurants and event venues.

“We are grateful for all he has done and look forward to seeing the next chapter of his career. Big Canyon Country Club is lucky to have him,” Honarkar wrote.

This story is developing and will be updated as necessary.

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