Farm to Table California Cuisine Shines at the Montage Laguna Beach

Chef Craig Strong breathes new life into hotel dining

The property is stunning.

Five-star hotel property Montage Laguna Beach is beloved for its spacious hotel rooms, sprawling views, and unbeatable service. While those attributes often lend themselves to impeccable food service, it might not always translate into the most creative of cuisines. But Executive Chef Craig Strong of the property’s five-star Studio Restaurant is changing that misconception and reinventing the definition of California cuisine. 

Strong has been at the helm of Studio since 2009, with a deep background in French and Spanish cuisines, having worked as the Sous Chef for The Newport Room at the Hotel Arts in Barcelona. Since that unforgettable experience, Strong became passionate about Mediterranean cuisine, he told The Daily Meal. His food philosophy now continues to have a heavy emphasis on cooking with ingredients like olive oil, fresh seafood and fragrant herbs which he grows on the restaurant’s own herb garden.

Most recently, Strong updated his menu to incorporate fresh fall flavors even in the midst of Southern California. The menu showcases dishes such as a classic risotto with mascarpone cheese and a John Dory fish dish paired with wilted gem lettuce. Strong believes in basic pairings with two unlikely items that come together to build a uniquely special dish, such as a crab and vanilla dish served with micro orchards topped with vanilla that comes directly from the orchid itself. As for his wild-caught Alaskan salmon dishes, he pairs it with root vegetable ribbons and a bean herb sauce fume made out of the bones of the fish and whole grain mustard. 

He’s also well known in local circles for his vegetarian tasting menus that incorporate a variety of dishes, some often mimicking pasta dishes such as: the beet and goat cheese ravioli with basil, smoked almonds and balsamic vinegar. Strong is more than amenable to those with food allergies, sensitivities and preferences. Not only can they cater to vegetarians, but he is also well versed in making gluten free dishes as well as dairy free creations. 

Strong often credits his unwavering team behind him who help execute dinner service night after night for the most sophisticated of travelers and eaters. Unlike many chefs, Strong keeps his cool in the kitchen, he attests. He believes a kitchen should run in a manner similar to a symphony, giving each of his line cooks the freedom to execute their dishes, while coming altogether to hit the high notes when necessary, particularly when creating their tasting menus. 

Location and aesthetics also play into the overall picture of what a dining experience is like at Studio. With sweeping views of the cliffs and a sandy beach below with stunning sunsets, Strong utilizes this beautiful backdrop to his advantage. 


There’s simply nothing quite like indulging in one of Chef Strong’s simply executed and extremely thoughtful tasting menus—perhaps with a wine pairing---while watching the sun dip down over the Pacific Ocean. If you’ve been there once, you’ll certainly crave a second visit. The place is simply addictive.