If there’s one thing Santa Barbara County is known for, it is the vast amount of great eateries that can be found.
To further solidify that, San Ysidro Ranch’s The Stonehouse in Montecito earned two distinctive recognitions this past week from two of the most internationally renowned and discerning sources: Michelin and Wine Spectator.
“I have been here a little over 10 years and we work really hard to get to where we are right now. It feels good to get these recognitions,” Executive Chef of The Stonehouse Matt Johnson told the News-Press.
Wine Spectator awarded The Stonehouse with the 2020 Grand Award, its top honor for extraordinary wine programs. This is the seventh consecutive year The Stonehouse earned the award that is only given out to 100 restaurants each year.
As for the Michelin Guide, it recently anointed The Stonehouse as one of just “11 Must-See Outside Meals,” in which they praised the location for its fantastic setting and presentation, wonderful view, and amazing meal course.
“For me, it feels amazing and I feel accomplished for all the hard work that everyone I work with has put in, whether it be our general manager or whether it be the owner or my food and beverage director Franco, or my wine director Marcus or my Chef of Cuisine Nate,” Mr. Johnson said.
“This just shows how much hard work we put in and to get something back like that is amazing.”
Since the pandemic, Mr. Johnson highlighted that The Stonehouse’s menu selection has been reduced, however he assures that the food they prepare is still of the highest quality.
Asked what he believes sets The Stonehouse apart from other restaurants, Mr. Johnson said the location and their amazing wine cellar, which has been rebuilt after the Montecito debris flow in 2018.
“It’s really just that much nicer and we have a constantly changing menu and a great chef garden that allows us to have seasonal vegetables that change with the menu and we have our own bees to prepare our honey,” he said.
Being a part of the San Ysidro Ranch team for a little over 10 years, Mr. Johnson has had a lot to be proud of, especially with The Stonehouse.
He noted that these recent recognitions, along with the five-star recognition they received from Forbes, are among his greatest memories during his tenure.
“I mean, we’ve done so much, we’ve been through so much here, so many different events and things that I think this recognition that we just achieved is probably one of the highest moments (I can think of),” Mr. Johnson said.
In his career, he has unfortunately seen his fair share of struggles. In fact, he remembers the Montecito debris flow and the destruction it caused, including the tearing down of the San Ysidro Ranch.
“It seems like a lot has happened the last two years with the fires, the mudslides, and now the pandemic, but we try to move it as best as we can,” Mr. Johnson said.
“We were in utter shock when it first happened, and I can’t put that into words, but it was beautiful to see when it got rebuilt to actually come back on the property, but I still just felt so bad for all the people that suffered through it and us as a county.”
With the current pandemic, Mr. Johnson acknowledged that it has been tough, but he is incredibly proud of his team and their continued hard work.
“We have a ton of pride every day. We work really, really hard, and with teamwork. We all just come together and work as a team, whether it be at the front desk or the banquets or anywhere,” he said. “It’s tough but we just take it in stride and we follow all the protocols and do the best that we can and make sure guests are happy.
“To be able to achieve the level of service we have come to expect even during this pandemic was tough, but it says a lot about everyone.”
While the recognitions have been welcomed, for Mr. Johnson and his staff and the people over at San Ysidro Ranch, the true reward is the smiles they put on people’s faces.
“It’s not a goal to win these awards, but it is always nice to achieve. Our goal is to make every single person that comes through here happy and leaving with a great experience,” Mr. Johnson said. “All these other things are the chocolate on top.”