When you think of Craig's, the West Hollywood restaurant (classic, upscale American: wedge salads, steaks, martinis) where paparazzi crowd the valet and the sports cars are plenty, it's easy to get distracted by the celebrity clientele. But chef Kursten Kizer is out of sight in the kitchen, making sure his plates look as good as his customers and maybe taste even better. For Kizer, it's a more fast-paced environment than his last job: as chef at the Post Ranch Inn, a quiet luxury hotel in Big Sur, Calif. Craig's is also the restaurant with that table bread — the flatbread topped with butter and honey that leaves guests dreaming about it for days after. Kizer recently sat down with one of those martinis and a basket of the famous bread to talk about how he got into the restaurant industry, after earning a degree in environmental studies — and that time he drove a forklift.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I was kind of all over the place. My mom said I wanted to be a pilot. For a while, I wanted to work in the environmental field. But ever since I was a teenager, I've been cooking. My mom and dad are good cooks so I spent most of my time in the kitchen.
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Have you ever been a bartender? I actually was a bartender for a bit. I liked making cocktails; I wasn't good at talking to the customers, though. Being in the kitchen works for me.
Favorite thing to eat when you're off the clock? I love it when I find a really good burger, or even just a chicken sandwich. I have a 2-year-old, so we do a lot of brunch. One of our favorites is the French Market Cafe in Venice.
Oddest job you've ever had? I worked as a golf course greenskeeper. I would start at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., then do catering in the evening. I was a pizza-delivery guy in college. I also worked for a landscaping company, so I can operate a forklift if I need to.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and what would you eat? Anthony Bourdain, so he could tell me amazing stories. Thomas Keller, and I'd just let him talk; we would eat fried chicken. And Ludo Lefebvre. That guy makes some crazy-good stuff, but I wouldn't want to sit and have dinner. I would grab a few good beers — Duvel, Delirium, whatever — go to the local farmers markets and see what we could come up with.
For the record: An earlier version of this post said Kizer worked at the Pine Tree Inn. The correct hotel name is Post Ranch Inn.
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