When Curtis Stone first opened his Beverly Hills restaurant four years ago, all eyes were on the Australian, who’d been cooking on camera and hosting popular food television shows, both in Australia and the States. Fans and critics wondered if the affable chef had spent too long outside the high-end kitchens in which he’d cut his teeth to make such a wildly ambitious project work. It was, after all, a tasting menu-only restaurant exploring a single ingredient that would change entirely and every single month.
Rave reviews, including one from this magazine, poured in, and reservations were tough to snag each time they released on Tock. But like many restaurants in Los Angeles, Maude eventually found itself craving reinvention.
“We were enjoying doing the single-ingredient menus, but I think we were enjoying them less than when we first started,” explains Stone. “The first year [that] we sat down and talked about the menu we were fighting for the ingredients. The last time we did that, it was just sort of, ‘OK, what’s next?’”
Rather than slogging through, Stone courageously decided to recalibrate.
“One of the things we really loved about the original concept is what a great job the wine team had done with the pairings,” Stone says, siting some of the unique, more esoteric wines and quirky winemakers the program had brought in.
As such, the new format at Maude is meant to showcase some of the lesser-known varietals of each wine region featured. And, instead of the menu changing monthly, it’s reworked quarterly, allowing the team to really dig into each theme.
Once settling on an appellation, Stone, executive chef Justin Hilbert and other key players take off for immersive research that eventually translates to the diner as a culinary adventure through the world’s great wine regions. While the chef jokes that the R&D is a great tax write-off, bringing the team along for travel is a tactic that some of the world’s top toques—like René Redzepi of Noma—have been employing to spark creativity in their staff, as well as facilitating a culinary cultural exchange.
For the debut of the new concept, Stone’s eyes were squarely on Rioja, a region centered around the Ebro River Valley in northern Spain, known for its production of tempranillo and garnacha.
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