We visit the home kitchens of some of the South Bay’s favorite restaurateurs and chefs and devour the pleasures of off-the-clock gastronomy.
- Written bySuzanna Cullen
Chef Alan Jackson & Heidi Jackson
Life has gotten pretty busy for chef Alan Jackson and his wife, Heidi, in recent years. Their popular Lemonade chain now includes 13 restaurants and 450 employees. One of the most recent opened here in the South Bay at the Metlox Center in Manhattan Beach.
Alan presides over the eateries’ expansive, seasonal menus and just released The Lemonade Cookbook. Meantime, Heidi helms their full-service catering company, Jackson Catering and Events.
Perhaps that explains why there’s an overwhelming sense of simplicity and calm at the home that the couple shares with their two young daughters—a traditional ranch with well-manicured grounds. Interiors are sophisticated and unpretentious—yet warm and inviting. The low-key vibe extends into their bright, sun-filled kitchen.
“Home is about family, not what we are eating. And here, we chop by hand,” Heidi shares as she watches her husband simmer tomatoes and garlic at the stove.
When it comes to tools, Alan is partial to a set of copper pans purchased from Williams-Sonoma about 25 years ago. Otherwise he’s a minimalist. “All I really need is a great copper skillet, stove and knife. And I don’t even need a fancy knife,” he quips.
Indeed, utensils here are restaurant grade, and countertops are appliance-free. The center island is Caesarstone, which Alan says “is great for rolling pastries.” Splurges include their high-end Wolf stove.
“We have a large catering business, so we’re pretty familiar with the Wolf stove,” Heidi shares. “It is a hotter stove—which you really need for the kind of cooking we do.”
The couple’s favorite mode of cooking, though, is outside—an outdoor oven that can reach temperatures of 800º. “It’s like a giant tandoor pot. We cook pizza here all the time. But I also cook things like fish, and I like to make baba ghanoush,” the soft-spoken chef explains.
While simplicity rules at home, things at work can get pretty complicated (at least to this observer). On a daily basis, Lemonade serves 20 veggie dishes, 10 braised meat dishes, nine land-and-sea dishes, and six flavors of lemonade—all served cafeteria-style.
“We wanted the food to be the kind you’d get at a restaurant with white tablecloths: lots of flavor and variety but in a more casual atmosphere. It’s the kind of place where—with so many healthy choices—you could go every day,” Heidi says.
As busy and complicated as life might be running his budding empire (plans are underway to open in Dubai), Alan says he still relishes the process. “I just really love cooking. It was like last night: Heidi and I were catering a large event. I cut 400 pounds of fish by hand. I didn’t have to do that. I did it by choice.”
Chef Bernard Ibarra
The Las Vegas Strip is open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with incredible opportunities for fine dining, exciting shows and a revolving door of celebrity appearances. Alternatively, Terranea Resort has built its identity around the magnificent landscape and rich environmental preservation efforts among the cliffs of exclusive Palos Verdes.
Terranea executive chef Bernard Ibarra was the executive chef of The Mirage Hotel & Casino and opened Aria Resort & Casino, both in Las Vegas, over a period of 15 years. Now he brings those talents to Terranea as the resort expands its culinary offerings.
“I call it ‘farm-to-Terranea,’” says Basque-born Chef Ibarra as he describes the abundance of available fresh produce in the Palos Verdes area. The Basque Country provides a bountiful array of seafood cooked in complex ways for a culinary feast, so both seafood and fresh ingredients are part of Chef Ibarra’s culinary background.
California is the country’s leading agricultural producer, and local farmers regularly provide Terranea with the best fresh ingredients. “Working here allows me to go back to my roots because I am near the sea and surrounded by fresh ingredients,” says the chef.
He oversees all aspects of the resort’s dining options including all restaurants, special events and catering options. Even with that overwhelming schedule and the significant amount of food considerations, Chef Ibarra still likes to cook when he is at home.
He moved to Palos Verdes in late May and is living in one of the resort villas until his beach bungalow home is ready for occupancy. “The villa kitchens are fully equipped, so I can prepare everything here that I would in the restaurants,” he says.
The ability to accommodate the highest level of fine dining was one of the most important considerations when the villas were developed. Guests of the resort villas and villa owners also have the option for Terranea chefs to provide in-home meal preparation.
Custom cabinetry, granite countertops, premier appliances and a full array of china, crystal and silver ensure that dining in the villas is as elegant as in any of the resort restaurants. Additionally, the resort can provide appropriate table and villa decorations for any occasion. However, Chef Ibarra is quick to note that “it is not the level of appliances in the kitchen that guarantee a good meal; rather, it is the ability of the chef to improvise and create.”
With that philosophy, he brings together all of his culinary experiences to create sophisticated menus both in the restaurants and at home. “Every day I wake up and face the ocean and golf course, and I feel like it’s Christmas here. I am so blessed,” he says. That enthusiasm has translated into his creation of more than 300 holiday events at Terranea, and he has designed a cooking class that will occur every two months.
“I witnessed the cultural revolution of Vegas during 15 years as the mega-hotels were constructed on The Strip, while internationally renowned chefs opened restaurants and exclusive shows premiered every night,” says Chef Ibarra. Although it was an exciting time to be in Vegas, he now feels that he has come home.
“I am so happy to be near the sea with fresh ingredients and working with a tremendous staff at a luxury resort,” he says. “I have combined the best of my past and am looking forward to my future at Terranea.”
Chef Ibarra continues with a laugh: “As soon as my beach bungalow is ready, I still will not be cooking in my own kitchen because it is so small! Instead, I’ll be outside on the grill.”
Given this chef’s vast experience in kitchens around the globe and his culinary background using fresh ingredients from both the ocean and land, it’s certain that all of his creations will be delicious, regardless of which kitchen he’s in.
Chris Stone, Partner
Abigaile and Ocean Bar
One of the most beguiling features of dining in Europe is that delicious food, smooth wine and charming company frequently unite in rustic atmospheres for truly memorable occasions. We return to America wondering how to recreate those meals of simple food served alfresco among generations of family and friends.
Then we host parties in our open concept floor plans where the food, drink and people gather amidst too many double-sized appliances and a plethora of unnecessary gadgets. And we wonder why the atmosphere isn’t the same.
However, Manhattan Beach resident Christopher Stone has gone to great lengths to create a truly authentic Italian outdoor entertaining area. As a partner in restaurants Abigaile, Ocean Bar and WildCraft Sourdough Pizza, Chris is attuned to all of the elements required to create a memorable dining experience.
Additionally, he is the CEO of the concierge service Beck & Score, wherein he guarantees extraordinary service to his clients. Whether in dining or services, Chris Stone ensures that his clients receive the best.
After graduating from the Marshall School of Business at USC, Chris entered real estate development in Hong Kong. However, the shifting economy prompted a return to the United States and a career change. “My experience is in business, not restaurants,” says Chris.
Like any savvy businessperson, Chris knew he needed to better understand his new field. He took an intensive training course at Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana in Italy, learning everything from the theory of making pizza to practical applications to professional standards. At the end of the course, Chris felt ready to forge ahead developing more restaurants in southern California.
“I’m not a great classically trained chef, but I learned to make a great pizza crust, use the freshest ingredients and understand that cooking it in a true wood-fired pizza oven makes all the difference,” says Chris. He made the decision to import one of the finest wood-fired Italian pizza ovens to his home in Manhattan Beach. The oven is now installed in his outdoor alfresco dining area.
“I wanted to blend Italy and California, so I had the mosaic decoration custom-created,” says Chris. The large Marra Forni oven sports blue waves around the base, while bright yellow sunshine caps the top. The wood is fed beneath the oven, and the pizza is transported in and out of the oven via authentic wood paddles.
Complementing every pizza is authentic Italian atmosphere. With stone patios and several seating areas, the garden is perfect for a relaxed evening at home. European string lights and wisteria combine for an old-world effect, while the wide plank dining table is inviting to guests.
A kegerator is craftily ensconced in a plaster pedestal—an architectural feature while dispensing Abigaile’s beers. Wine from California and Italy are an integral part of the table decoration.
“It’s rare that we can all get together, given our respective schedules, but when we can, my business partners Jed Sanford, Mike Barson, Chef Tin Vuong and I love to relax out here,” says Chris.
It’s a roundabout course to go from USC to real estate in Hong Kong to restaurants in Southern California. However, Chris picked up the best of each place and profession as he made his way to Asia and back.
From sophisticated business and concierge skills to fresh ingredients and homemade food, Chris has blended them seamlessly for a successful recipe that encompasses all facets of both his professional and personal life. It’s a sure bet that whether you’re a customer in his restaurants or a guest in his alfresco garden kitchen, the food and atmosphere will be superb.