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New Food Team At Waldorf Astoria

The Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach has seen its share of changes in the past few years, including a then record-breaking $500 million property sale in 2019, name and brand swaps, and a multimillion-dollar renovation among the moves at the 400-room, 800,000-square-foot luxe resort of late.

The latest change for the property, the first Waldorf Astoria property in Orange County, is food oriented: the resort recently appointed two distinguished culinary talents to its leadership team: Chef Gordon Maybury and Chef Peter Lai.

Maybury has been named resort executive chef, overseeing the culinary experiences across the entire resort, while Lai assumes the role of executive chef for Bourbon Steak Orange County, Chef and Restaurateur Michael Mina’s nod to the American steakhouse.

This announcement follows the retirement of the resort’s esteemed Executive Chef Jean-Pierre Dubray, who helped select these culinary leaders to carry on his legacy.

As resort executive chef, Maybury will direct the culinary operations of the property, including overseeing seven dining destinations and a robust banquet and catering operation.

As executive chef of Bourbon Steak, Lai is entrusted with upholding Michael Mina’s culinary vision. Lai has served as executive chef at several notable Orange County restaurants including Water Grill, the Blind Rabbit and Oak Grill.

Business Mentality

Maybury has worked for several high-end resorts, including the Arizona Biltmore.

The Dana Point resort, which was bought by Ohana Real Estate Investors LLC for $1.25 million a key in 2019 and subsequently rebranded as a Waldorf Astoria, is Maybury’s first California assignment.

The primary goal, Maybury said, is consistency.

“Guests want the same experience,” Maybury said. “You have eight different outlets at Monarch Beach, so you are in charge of food quality at all of those places, and you are involved with staffing in all of those places, so you have to have the consistency of product, plus dealing with cooks and chefs and sous chefs, and dealing with the financial obligations.”

Ohana, which has invested in other OC resorts, last year sold a 40% stake in the resort to San Manuel Band of Mission Indians at a reported $600 million valuation.

Dubray noted that there are many responsibilities of an executive chef.

“Meetings, being organized, not just for today or tomorrow, but for next week, or next month. Meeting for menus for the holidays. You are always thinking about the next thing. Yesterday we cannot change. It’s the job of the executive chef to think of the future.”

“The staff are working for today and tomorrow, the sous chefs are working for this week, the chefs are working for the month, and we are working further out than that,” Maybury said.

High-End Standards

While Maybury is overseeing all of the resort’s culinary offerings, Lai is focused on its best-known restaurant, Bourbon Steak, which has seen its own changes at the hotel; it was previously known as Stonehill Tavern.

He is tasked with making sure all the dishes are consistently prepared while offering new ones.

“There are standards you have to carry with the Michael Mina name,” Lai stated. “There is a little freedom on how things are plated, and we can change with the seasons. We do special dinners and tastings on top of catering menus.”

Lai also emphasized the Bourbon Steak experience.

“You can get steak in a lot of places, but here we provide an experience. You are getting table touch with the sommelier; if you order chicken, it’s the tableside carving of the chicken, explaining the story, smelling the aromas, the feelings, the essence. Everything here is done with meaning.”

Chopped Audition

“It took three months to hire him,” Dubray said of Lai. “There was the Waldorf Astoria process and the Michael Mina process.”

That process involved something resembling the Food Network show “Chopped,” where Lai had to cook dishes for a panel of judges, including Dubray.

“They gave me an option of what to make. I had to prepare appetizers and entrées. They gave me free range, but also a surprise option—to make a dish out of ingredients they gave me,” Lai recalled.

Lai obviously passed the gastronomic exam.

“We are fortunate to work for a great brand,” Dubray said. “Gordon is not coming into a place that is broken and he has to put it back together. It’s running pretty well, so it’s a matter of continuing.”

Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach:
1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point,
(949) 234-3368, waldorfastoriamonarchbeach.com

Dubray’s Decades of Fine Dining

The Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach’s departing executive chef, Jean-Pierre Dubray, has had a 40-year career at some of the world’s finest hotels and resorts, and a lengthy track record in Orange County.

Prior to joining the Dana Point resort, he helped open The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast, where he spent more than 10 years before coming to what was known as the Monarch Beach Resort during the pandemic.

Some of Dubray’s favorite memories include cooking alongside such notable names as Julia Child and Paul Bocuse.

Dubray “leaves an indelible impact on Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach and the greater hospitality community,” said George Munz, general manager of the resort.

“His close involvement in selecting our new culinary leaders is a testament to Chef Dubray’s stewardship of his legacy and commitment to the resort’s future success.”

Dubray came to America in 1980 from France when he was 21 and opened a restaurant in Brea called La Vie En Rose. He then became the dining room chef and executive sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, followed by stints as executive chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Santa Mirage and the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco.

“San Francisco was the best job you could have imagined,” Dubray recalled. “The food scene was amazing, and our hotel was a destination hotel. Then came the stock market crash, and I came back to Southern California and opened Pelican Hill.”

Dubray said he is looking forward to retirement because it will give him more time for gardening, and he won’t have to sacrifice his weekends and holidays.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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