The dining room at Rustic Canyon, seen here in 2019. The restaurant recently reopened for takeout. (Courtesy photo)

By Mari Lundin
Daily Press Intern

“Where are the other two?” asked Josh Loeb, co-owner of Rustic Canyon when he received a text notifying him that the restaurant won a Michelin star.

The Michelin Guide honored Santa Monica’s Dialogue and Rustic Canyon with a Michelin star for their high-quality cuisine and dining experience in the Guide’s 2019 return to California. Of the 90 California restaurants awarded a star, 24 were located in Los Angeles.

Loeb opened Rustic Canyon in 2006 after he decided to take his passion of hosting dinner parties for friends and family to the next level. Inspired by the Santa Monica Farmers Market, the menu is seasonal and derives from food’s relationship with the earth. The restaurant is committed to a zero-waste policy; the chefs utilize every part of each ingredient.

“To get recognized, to give us a star for doing what we do, not trying to fit into that mold felt really good,” Loeb said. “It’s more about what makes the people coming in the doors happy, not what’s getting recognition.”

While Rustic Canyon is known as a neighborhood restaurant, Dialogue offers a more exclusive dining experience. Led by award-winning chef Dave Beran, Dialogue is run by a team of nine and opened just a year and a half ago as a 700-square-foot restaurant in The Gallery, a food hall on the Third Street Promenade.

“We don’t have bathrooms, a bar or even a changing room. And in a year and a half we earned our first Michelin Star,” Beran said.

The setting is intimate with room for only 18 guests. Eight seats overlook the kitchen from the bar and three tables sit in the small dining room. Dialogue’s menu consists of single multi-course options inspired by the organic ingredients of Southern California.

Dialogue and Rustic Canyon have distinct atmospheres and menus, however, they share one commonality; fresh, organic ingredients from the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

Andy Doubrava, the executive chef of Rustic Canyon, goes to the farmers market two to three times a week and alters the menu daily based on fresh ingredients.

“Simplicity in letting the farmers do most of the work is really inspiring,” said Doubrava, who quit his executive chef position in New York to become a line cook at Rustic Canyon nearly four years ago.

“I cooked in New York for a long time, so (being awarded a Michelin Star) is a big deal for me personally,” Doubrava said. “It’s the goal when you’re from out there.”

Michelin inspectors use five criteria to rate the overall dining experience, regardless of location and style of cuisine. The criteria are 1. quality of ingredients, 2. mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, 3. personality of the chef in the cuisine, 4. value for the money, 5. consistency between visits. Out of roughly 16,000 restaurants recommended by the Michelin Guide, only 14 percent have been given stars.

“It’s an incredible honor to become globally recognized for our work and belief in doing something in a very non-traditional manner,” Beran said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our team and couldn’t be more grateful for all of the support of our incredible friends and guests.”

Seven of the 657 Michelin-recommended restaurants are located in Santa Monica, one being Rustic Canyon’s sister restaurant, Cassia.

For the future, Doubrava and Loeb said nothing will change in regards to the way they run Rustic Canyon. They’re happy with one star.

“Two involves changing the way we do things and I don’t want to do that,” Doubrava said.

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