- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- CHANGE-UP : Brian Collins (left) is the new chef at Lido, taking the reins from Evan Treadwell (right).
Ever wonder why chefs change jobs so frequently? Having walked in their clogs, I can say from experience that it’s usually to further their career. That’s the bottom line; it’s not as personal as it appears. Only winemakers seem to move around as frequently as chefs. Whether a winemaker or a chef, people with exceptional talent are frequently lured away from their jobs by entrepreneurs opening a new place, establishments hoping to revive dwindling business, or restaurateurs seeking to replace talent that moved on.
Here in SLO County, we recently lost a great chef who was first in bringing us classical French cuisine: Wilhelm ‘Bill’ Hoppe, who passed away in early spring. His two young adult daughters honored him by taking over Hoppe’s Garden Bistro with the help of their mother, Tina Hoppe.
Unfortunately, we’re losing another exceptional local chef, Evan Treadwell at Lido. Treadwell accepted an irresistible job offer at a major ski resort in Colorado that currently has two restaurants and wants to expand into Denver. Taking over the helm at Lido is chef Brian Collins, formerly at Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos, who’s returning home to South County.
Treadwell has lived here nine years, and I’ve been a fan since he relocated here from Humboldt County in 2002 to open Vigneto restaurant in Arroyo Grande. I was impressed by his stellar background. He was a protégé of bay area chefs who had a major influence on the American dining scene, including Jeremiah Tower, Joyce Goldstein, Nancy Oakes, and Gary Danko. Yet the friendly chef Evan never projected an attitude or affected air; he was a serious, talented chef who wanted to be part of the blossoming wine and food industry in SLO County.
For nearly a decade, he has been a major contributor while working at Vigneto (defunct), Gardens of Avila at Sycamore Mineral Springs, and Lido at Dolphin Bay where he launched that contemporary restaurant and made it one of the finest dining experiences in SLO County. At Lido, Treadwell added many dining attractions for connoisseurs, like the Fireside Grill where you could buy outstanding grilled fish, meats, and veggies, and enjoy the food and wine picnic-style beside the Pacific; gourmet cooking classes featuring multi-course meals; and wine event banquets like the famed Emeril Lagasse lunch during last year’s Central Coast Wine Classic.
Of course his most important impact on the Central Coast was bringing the James Beard Foundation here annually for a black tie dinner affair at Lido, promoting both our chefs and our winemakers. Treadwell admitted: “This was the hardest decision I’ve had to make in my career. I’m going to miss the Central Coast so much; the winemakers supported me and I supported them.”
Every Tuesday evening, Lido features local winemakers who pour their wines, which guests enjoy with appetizers.
“This new job is a great step in my career,” Treadwell said. “I want to stay fully engaged and fully challenged, and this is an opportunity to help build a region and a resort that will be a destination for connoisseurs.”
Treadwell concluded: “This move provides a chance for me and for Brian to advance in our careers, and it makes perfect sense.”
When giving notice, Treadwell suggested that Dolphin Bay Resort and Lido owner, Rick Loughead, offer the executive chef position to chef Brian Collins at Full of Life Flatbread. Collins was Treadwell’s sous chef for more than three years after Lido opened. Not only does he know the kitchen, Collins maintained his friendship with Lido pastry chef Benjie Puga.
“I feel the job at Lido is a good fit, and I have the training. It will be my first job as executive chef,” Collins explained. “I’m glad I’ll have Benjie working with me; he has had classical European training, and he’s a rock!”
Collins, a graduate of Arroyo Grande High School, also has fabulous credentials: He graduated from the San Francisco California Culinary Academy in 2000, and he boldly landed an internship at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley. He remained there more than five years, earning the position of lead line cook for the awesome chef Alice Waters. Upon his return to his hometown, Arroyo Grande, he was hired by chef Pandee Pearson when she was at Windows on the Water in Morro Bay. From there, he moved on to Lido as sous chef, and then Full of Life Flatbread, where’s he’s been creating farm-to-table dishes for 3 1/2 years. Collins candidly discussed the difficulty of leaving a great job: “At Flatbread, we averaged 300 dinners nightly. It’s a little oasis out in the middle of nowhere. We created a family by hiring amazing, kind-hearted people who are stars in my heart.”
Praising Flatbread owner Clark Staub, Collins described him as a natural in the kitchen. They often had friendly competitions with each other to see who could make the most interesting dishes from their farmers market haul.
“Flatbread was focused on what I learned at Chez Panisse: Every day we created new dishes from farm fresh foods that were rustic and wine friendly,” Collins said. “While I was at Lido, Evan taught me a lot, and when he gave you a job to do he trusted you. When he called to offer me this position, I felt good about it. It was going to take a great offer to take me away from Flatbread.”
Collins will continue to offer Treadwell’s current menu, but has some changes he’ll initiate right away: “When you’re cooking from scratch with farmers market fresh seasonal ingredients, it seems simple, but it actually takes more work. I believe in the philosophy that less is more.”
Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at email@example.com.