The Executive Chef at the 1 Pico restaurant is on a mission to help others create positive holiday memories through food.
Editor’s Note: With family gatherings upon us and visitors aplenty in town, the Daily Press is highlighting several local restaurants and talking to chefs about their approach to the holiday season.
Growing up in a large family with a culinary-inclined mother, food was at the center of every holiday celebration Chef Sean Michael Runyon remembers as a child.
He recalls his Korean mom putting together spreads of turkey, steak, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes for the whole family, always complete with a signature Korean staple.
“It would be this whole classic Americana affair with a big old bowl of kimchi in the middle of the table,” he said.
Now, as the Executive Chef at the 1 Pico restaurant at Shutters on the Beach, Runyon is on a mission to help others create positive holiday memories through food.
“As a chef or anybody in the hospitality industry, in the restaurant world, we don’t get to see our families really on these holidays – we’ll do the day before or after or something like that, and that’s what we signed up for– but to see other people enjoying it while enjoying your food and laughing around the table, definitely pulls at the heart strings for sure,” he said.
The type of food Runyon cooks this time of year is inspired by simple, fresh seasonal ingredients which is reflected in a new menu he recently launched at 1 Pico as well as several special holiday dinner and brunch menus.
“We’ve really just simply focused on the ingredients, the protein sourcing…” he said. “Especially this year, the delicata squashes are just beautiful right now so it [using fresh ingredients] is just really important.”
Runyon sources his food from local vendors around the state with the help of his “produce guy.”
“He’s this Italian guy who basically lives in his truck and he goes up and down the coast, all up and down California and just gets the best produce before they get sent to the farmer’s markets,” he said.
“We do have a wonderful, simple little venue. I think there is a little bit of — there’s an item for everybody on this menu. We’ve really worked really hard with local purveyors and sourcing and trying to get the best meats and fish and produce possible.”
Runyon is a proponent of letting foods’ natural flavors be the star of the show and encourages others to take a “low and slow” approach to cooking by keeping it simple and enjoying the process, especially around the holidays.
“Relax a little bit, don’t stress yourself out too much,” he said. “It’s all about having fun, no matter what, at the end of the day, it’s all about being with your family and loved ones.”
Even amid the busy holiday season, Runyon said he still finds time to cook for his family, a task he has taken over from his mother after her many years as the committed family chef.
“I do most of the cooking now which is fine because I want to give my mom a break now that she’s getting a little older,” he said. “I was born on the ninth of November, so by Thanksgiving she had just given birth to me and she still did the dinner, still recovering after having a child – so it’s the least I can do to thank her.”
1 Pico is open seven days a week for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch. The restaurant is offering set menu options for Christmas Eve Dinner, Christmas Day Brunch, Christmas Day Dinner, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day Brunch. For more information and to make reservations visit: https://www.shuttersonthebeach.com/dining/1-pico#