April 9, 2019 – We all know that change can be bittersweet. And for many of us who recently learned about the changes happening at La Posta in Santa Cruz, a little bit of remorse might be felt at the thought of seeing chef Katherine Stern’s delicious food go away.
Stern, who helmed the local gem for almost a decade, and whose dishes transformed many patrons into regulars over that time, has left the restaurant to pursue her own next steps. But the shift has been amenable and the departure was on very good terms.
She says, “I am grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to serve as head chef at La Posta for the last nine years. I was fortunate to have Patrice give me the freedom to create farm-to-table menus that utilized some of the best ingredients in Santa Cruz. La Posta was a wonderful community of staff and neighborhood patrons that I will greatly miss. While I was sad to leave, I felt the time had come for me to open my own restaurant, which is currently in the works. More good food to come soon!”
So this is maybe not such bittersweet change, maybe just plain sweet? This is very exciting news for us eaters on two fronts, anticipating Chef Stern’s own spot, who says, “The location and timeframe of the project is still unknown but I’m working on it daily,” as well as being able to welcome incoming chef Dante Cecchini to La Posta. The Chronicle rising star chef who was formerly at hot spots Fiorella, Violet’s and Marlowe in San Francisco, took the reins in mid-March and will surely have things to impart to us using our local bounty and his Italian cooking background.
Owner Patrice Boyle, who found chef Cecchini through industry friends in San Francisco, says that he is “bringing new ideas and we’re really pleased to have him, we feel really fortunate.” Some of those new ideas come in the form of spring-centric dishes like the Roman-style Vignarola, a seasonal vegetable stew with English peas, favas, artichoke, pancetta and herbs. He is also taking on the pastry side of things, and has come up with a Chocolate Budino with olive oil chantilly, sea salt and pistachio that sounds very hard to miss.
But while, of course, a new chef will bring new concepts and techniques, or, as Boyle perfectly explains, “a chef’s cooking is like their fingerprints, especially the good ones”, anyone who is timid of too many shifting tides at the restaurant will not have anything to fear. Boyle assures us that “we don’t want to have this big change for all of our customers. We have lots and lots of loyal folks. So we are not making changes just to make changes.”
“Dante’s food is rustic and super flavorful and he is really excited to be here, working in the kitchen with the crew that has been here since we opened,” says Boyle. That’s thirteen years this December, which is quite a feat in today’s restaurant world.
Cecchini is so dedicated to making this work out, that he is still commuting from the city to get here, and has yet to find a place to settle down here in Santa Cruz. His collection of Ducati motorcycles are coming in handy for the time being. Stop in and extend a warm Surf City greeting to chef Cecchini next time you’re looking for some delicious Cal-Ital nourishment, and stay tuned for more news on Katherine Stern’s next steps.
Amber Turpin is a food writer and baker who homesteads in Ben Lomond.