New Five Crowns chef serves up enthusiasm

There's a new chef in town.

After bouncing around more than four kitchens over the past decade, Greg Harrison has taken the reins as Five Crowns' executive chef.

"I'm going to change it up," he said in a crisp white chef's uniform, his enthusiasm evident as he sat on a bar stool. "I'm bringing new ideas to the table."

Harrison, 35, replaced Ryan O'Melveny Wilson, 31, from Lawry's Restaurants, the restaurant group that includes Five Crowns, on June 19.

Wilson, the grandson of Five Crowns founder Richard Frank, acted as executive chef after veteran Dennis Brask retired after 26 years at the helm in February 2011.

"This is a tough job," Wilson said. "But he is equally as excited when its 8:30 in the morning as he is at 10 at night. His energy is contagious."

The Corona del Mar restaurant, modeled after an English inn, is split into Five Crowns, a fine-dining restaurant, and SideDoor, a gastropub created in 2010.

The Le Cordon Bleu-educated Harrison brings a background in Italian, French and Japanese cuisine and said he hopes to add a "contemporary twist" to Five Crowns.

He previously worked at Roy's in Kauai, the Nobhill Tavern and Fiamma at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point and Morimoto in Napa.

In May, it came down to Harrison and one other candidate for the executive chef position, said General Manager Jim Colombo, 43.

After a trip to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, Colombo knew Harrison would get the job.

"Talk about a kid in a candy store," Colombo said, smiling as he recalled the memory. "It was inspiring watching him run loose, sort of bounding up and down the aisles of the farmers market."

Harrison goes to farmers markets twice a week to pick out fresh ingredients.

His enthusiasm may begin with food, but it doesn't end with it.

He said his favorite part of his job is teaching his staff.

Stephen Kling, 35, who has been a sous chef at Five Crowns for a year, said the staff appreciates Harrison's progressive techniques.

Harrison has introduced octopus to the restaurant's menu and experimented with various foams.

"Everyone is behind him," Kling said. "This is like an education for us."

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