Conscious Cuisine: Caruso’s Dinner to Honor Mother Earth & James Beard Foundation

By Gabe Saglie   |   April 23, 2024
Executive Chef Massimo Falsini in the garden (courtesy photo)

In many ways, Earth Day is every day at Caruso’s. 

“We have to follow Mother Nature,” insists Executive Chef Massimo Falsini, who recently steered the oceanfront eatery at the Rosewood Miramar Beach toward its first Forbes 5-Star honor. Caruso’s is also the winner of a coveted One Star rating from Michelin, along with a Michelin Green Star nod for a slew of sustainability efforts, from food sourcing to composting.

“If you were to send up a drone on any particular week and take a picture of our farmers’ market, and then take a picture of our plates set across the table, the colors would match!” continues Chef Falsini, during an exclusive sit-down with the Journal in the Caruso’s dining room last week. “When you follow the changes in nature, everything stays in synchronicity.”

An unbending commitment to creating dishes by taking a cue from the seasons means that the menu at Caruso’s is ever evolving. In March, the menu available at the beginning of the month changed by the middle of the month, and it was updated again by the time March came to an end. The menu becomes a snapshot “of our changing Riviera landscape, and of all the changing colors.”

Chef Falsini calls the limitations wrought by the seasonally shifting availability of ingredients “one hundred perfect liberating” because “it makes you a better chef.” It’s an approach aimed at respecting and preserving Mother Nature, he adds, as well as “creating a positive relationship with, and doing something important for, the local community.”

This Caruso’s ethos gets the Earth Day treatment next week, when Chef Falsini hosts a Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner on Wednesday, April 24th at 6 pm. The five-course, hyper-local meal will be presented on a long communal table overlooking Miramar Beach. It’s the latest in an ongoing series of nationwide gastronomic events aimed at funding the programs of the nonprofit James Beard Foundation, which advocate for talent, equity, and sustainability. 

The benefit dinner will also be helmed by Caruso’s Chef de Cuisine, Shibani Mone, and will feature guest Chef Rachel Haggstrom of The Restaurant at Justin, the culinary arm of Justin Vineyard & Winery in Paso Robles. Guests of honor will be many of the purveyors, along with their own spouses and kids, with whom Chef Falsini collaborates daily, and who’ll be bringing to the table the produce and proteins that they’re harvesting, catching, and reaping right now. “This American Riviera and the Central Coast are the richest part of the state, thanks to all the amazing ranchers and fishermen and farmers here,” says Chef Falsini. “There is a like-mindedness around how food is made and how we get it on the plate.” 

Well-known angler Stephanie Mutz from Sea Stephanie Fish “will bring some uni and spot prawns.” Strawberries and peas, “both the snap peas and the English peas,” will be on the menu, too, along with any stone fruits that ripen in the next few days. “There’s a chance apricots will be ready a bit early this season,” adds the chef. And there will be plenty of in-season produce from the 1-1/2-acre plot that the Caruso’s team has just contracted – a new, exclusive project – at Vega Vineyard & Farm in Buellton. 

Fowl from Liberty Ducks in Sonoma County are already aging in the Caruso’s kitchen, and food from Ojai Roots and Solymar Seafood will also be on the plate. 

Santa Ynez Valley-based winemakers Jessica Gasca, of Story of Soil fame, and Steve Clifton, known for his Palmina label, will be among the invited vintners. The night’s wines will come exclusively from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, regions that Chef Falsini finds to be widely underappreciated, and which he likens in quality, value and food-friendliness to wines from his native Italy. “At any price, and especially between $50 and $100 a bottle, you can’t find a wine anywhere in the world that could beat an Italian wine,” boasts Chef Falsini, “and you can probably say the same about wines from the Central Coast.”

Tickets for this Earth Day-inspired fête are priced at $325 per person, or $450 with wine pairings. Check out  


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