Scallops with roasted carrots and vegetable purees is a new dish at the Rosewood CordeValle.
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Chef Alexander La Motte puts the finishing touches on an experimental concoction mounted on a wooden serving platter.
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A new take on duck by La Motte, who studied biological conservation in college.
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Alexander La Motte, the new chef at the Rosewood CordeValle, found himself reverting to an old favorite on Valentine’s Day—duck with a cinnamon rub. He made up the recipe when he was in second grade, cooking at home, alone. That time, he used chicken, and he thought the cinnamon was paprika. But his mother praised the dish, and, with a few tweaks over the years, it’s become a perennial entree on his menus, including the five-star resort in San Martin where he’s slowly rolling out changes. From soup to table settings, he wants to put his mark on the three restaurants at the hotel by moving away from the Latin-inspired menu in favor of ingredient-driven contemporary American food.
He became interested in the farm-to-table movement while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pursuing a degree in biological conservation and environmental studies. A semester shy of graduating, he dropped out. Blame it on L’Etoile. The Madison restaurant and its chef, who sourced her ingredients from local farms, had a profound influence on La Motte—so much so that he ditched a bachelor’s degree in exchange for culinary school, which turned out to be a winning move. His résumé includes stints at the three-Michelin-starred The French Laundry and DB Brasserie in Las Vegas. He was the top chef at San Francisco’s Four Seasons Hotel and, more recently, Santa Barbara’s Hotel Californian.
When the opportunity came to oversee the culinary program at Rosewood, open only to guests and members, he jumped on it. “I just turned 40 and had reached a point in my life where I was looking for permanence,” he says. “And the Rosewood brand has always been culinary-driven.”
La Motte also wants to freshen up the aesthetic at the Rosewood’s three restaurants. Top on the agenda is infusing the main dining room with light and color and updating the linens, dishes and glassware. “When I got here, the restaurant was a little dark,” he says. “I don’t want a place that’s overly stuffy, where people only want to come once or twice a year. I want to have upscale, sophisticated food in an environment that’s happier, welcoming and comfortable.”
Basically, he wants a vibe similar to Rosewood CordeValle itself—casual but sophisticated. Nestled in a quiet valley between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range, the resort boasts 1,700 acres of countryside and an 18-hole championship golf course (designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.). Surrounded by rich farmlands, the location is a chef’s paradise and La Motte plans to use hyperseasonal ingredients that are locally sourced.
At Il Vigneto, the dinner spot, “the menus will change often,” he says, adding that his philosophy is to take “what’s fresh and local, and see how we can manipulate it in different ways.” Look for dishes such as royal sweet scallops, wild and sustainably farmed salmon, California raised lamb, braised pork belly, and housemade pastas, he says. In One Iron Bar, the resort’s casual-dining venue (breakfast, lunch and dinner), La Motte envisions brasserie-style dishes with a nod to sustainable seafood instead of just burger-pizza-pasta fare. Braised octopus, mussels and fries and specialty salads are possible contenders. At Lion’s Peak Grill, the golf course cafe, La Motte is focusing on comfort food with a modern twist. He wants to add a little pizazz to dishes eaten off trays attached to golf carts. Burgers and wraps for sure, La Mott says. But he’s working on a few new ideas, including hand pies. “Maybe something with pork and eggs and grass-fed beef with turmeric.” And who knows? Maybe even cinnamon. 1 Cordevalle Club Drive, San Martin, 408.695.4500
Originally published in the April/May issue of Silicon Valley