Aubergine Carmel - the Restaurant in L'Auberge Carmel





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If you are on assignment and would like to stay at L'Auberge Carmel or dine at Aubergine, we would be pleased to assist with your press trip. For further information, photography or to answer questions, please contact:  Melissa Welles


Eat More Flowers by Alex Van Buren, Yahoo Food, April 23, 2014


We spoke to Tyler Gray of Mikuni Wild Harvest, who supplies four-star restaurants nationwide. In addition to specialty items like basil-fed snails, Gray offers dozens of edible flowers. Below are his top 10 biggest sellers, in all their fully-bloomed glory, plus a recipe from Food & Wine Best New Chef Justin Cogley of California’s Aubergine, whom Gray supplies.


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Opinionated About Dining

Aubergine awarded #16 of Top US Restaurants, Opinionated About Dining, March 31, 2014


Justin Cogley of Aubergine talks coastal cuisine and discovery by Paolo Lucchesi, Inside Scoop SF, March 20, 2014


On Saturday, an absolutely ridiculously talented lineup of chefs will converge upon chef Justin Cogley’s immaculate, tiny kitchen at Aubergine in Carmel for the second annual Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine dinner: John Shields, Kyle Connaughton, David Beran (Next, Chicago), Blain Wetzel (Willows Inn, Washington), Justin Woodward (Castagna, Portland), and Stephanie Prida (Manresa, Los Gatos).

The dinner came about when Cogley and Shields were discussing coastal cuisine at an event several years ago. Or rather, they were trying to define the phrase.


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The 2014 Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalists: Best Chef: West - Justin Cogley, James Beard Foundation, February 19, 2014


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World's Best Cities for Romance: No. 3 Carmel, CA by Stephanie Orma, Travel and Leisure, February 2014


No. 3 Carmel, CA

Storybook cottages, quaint shops, art galleries, and inviting eateries in this quaint seaside village abut one of northern California’s most spectacular swaths of sand. Amble along the cypress-fringed path overlooking the rugged coast or cuddle on a bench and gaze out on the Pacific. Wine-tasting in nearby Carmel Valley, Pebble Beach’s scenic 17-mile drive, and the redwood-laden road to Big Sur only heighten the romance factor.

Don’t Miss: A glass of wine on the patio of Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch, with rolling sheep meadows and sparkling sea vistas, before dinner at L’Auberge Carmel’s cozy Aubergine restaurant, helmed by one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2013, Justin Cogley.


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Forbes Travel Guide names Five-Star porperties by Nancy Trejos, USA Today, January 22, 2014


There are now 48 Five-Star restaurants in Asia and the USA. New York alone has seven Five-Star restaurants.


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the best of 2013: the restaurant edition by Ulterior Epicure,, January 9, 2014


f Michelin were to travel down the coast to Carmel-By-The-Sea, I’m confident they’d find at least one star owing to Aubergine at l’Auberge Carmel. I loved discovering Justin Cogley‘s food over the course of three dinners there this year. He has a unique voice and an impeccable palate.  I know I will continue to see good things coming from his corner.


Here are the restaurant’s I’d most like to revisit in 2014:  In the U.S., Frasca Food + Wine in Boulder tops my list (my last and only meal there was in December of 2008).  Otherwise, there are five restaurants – in my opinion, five of the most exciting restaurants in the U.S. right now – to which I’d like most to return:  Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Washington; saison in San Francisco, California; Aubergine at l’Auberge Carmel in Carmel-By-The-Sea; elements in Princeton, New Jersey; and Manresa in Los Gatos, California.  A year with meals at those five restaurants, alone, would be a fantastic year.


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Where to Eat Well in Carmel by Dana Rebmann
7x7, January 7, 2014


You have to pack accordingly for dinner at Zagat rated Aubergine. Dressing up is just part of the fun that comes with being pampered as you lose count of the plates on the chef’s tasting menu. Flavors are fabulous, but the presentations make the meal, so have your cell phone handy to snap some pictures.


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Boston's 2nd Shake Shack Opens; Aubergine Collaboration, by Erin DeJesus,, January 2, 2014


Celebrated California restaurant Aubergine hasannounced the line-up for its second-annual "Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine" dinner, scheduled for Saturday, March 22 at the Restaurant at L'Auberge. Aubergine chef Justin Cogley will join forces with David Beran (Next), Stephanie Prida (Manresa), Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn), Justin Woodward (Portland's Castagna), John Shields (Town House), and Kyle Connaughton for a meal that celebrates the "biodiversity of the central coast." Tickets are $350; more information here.


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Best Dishes of 2013
by ulterior epicure, January 2, 2014


Ossau-Iraty melted over barley, with white Alba truffles..
(Aubergine; Carmel-By-The-Sea, California)

A small hillock of tender barley; a square kerchief of Ossau-Iraty cheese draped over the grains, melted; and a blizzard of white truffles.  Texture, flavor, aroma; excellent.


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Artist of Flavors: Justin Cogley
Jever Gourmet Festival Sylt, January 15-19, 2014


"If I were to describe my kitchen in one sentence," the American Justin Cogley says, "I would say each plate has its destiny." His goal is to inspire his guests. This undoubtedly succeeds: Any court presented the former figure skater in his restaurant Aubergine in Northern California Carmel-by-the-Sea, is a true freestyle flavor combinations and textures. Not without reason, the renowned American Gourmet magazine FOOD & WINE chose him recently named "Best New Chef 2013".


Prior to his career as a chef Cogley was a professional figure skater in the show "Disney on Ice".


With the crew, he toured for four years by the world and thus became acquainted with the different cuisines and flavors from all over the world know. Even then he whiled away his free time like trying to look at food markets for new culinary discoveries.


What he served today in his little restaurant is influenced by that time. So it can happen that one finds a mixture of Moroccan, Indian and Italian flavors on the plate, which give a perfect taste combination. Minted is his food is also of the local specialties of the surrounding nature. Particularly frequently with him fresh seafood on the map. One of his favorite ingredients include abalone, a genus of large sea snails.

But not only that, what one finds in Justin Cogley, who cooked with Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, one of the finest restaurants in the world on the plate, can be described as a compositional masterpiece. Also the all around is the optimal association of ambience, service and wine selection. Then there is the magic of the small California town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, where once writers like Ernest Hemingway and Jack London lived and still is very popular with celebrities - between 1986 and 1988 Clint Eastwood was mayor here.


To popularity from a culinary perspective reached the place in recent years with security by Justin Cogley who likes again ordered his guests to the end of a wonderful meal to be in the kitchen. And that is guaranteed to have for one or the other chat even when GOURMET FESTIVAL SYLT.


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The 15 Best Dishes of 2013 According to John Sconzo, AKA Docsconz

by Paula Forbes,, December 30, 2013


10: Abalone

Aubergine, Carmel, California

A sixty five year-old abalone had been gifted to the chef, who in turn gifted it to my table as well as a few others in the restaurant that evening. It had been roasted whole and sliced to be served with sea vegetables and a chicken broth. Guilt never tasted so good.


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Aubergine – A Walk on the Sea

Chuck Eats, December 23, 2013


The cooking at Aubergine has changed – from shades of a Chicago school to what is loosely a Bay area style. The molecular constructions are less obvious and less frequent. Local produce appears more often. The seafood and vegetable aspects of earlier meals seem to be meeting closer to the water’s edge, with a particular fondness for seaweed.


With each visit, there is further refinement. And the accolades are coming.


Less is on the plate. Natural flavors and textures are given more prominence. The story is stronger and the cooking more confident. Cogley is not afraid to let an ingredient speak, sometimes completely surrendering the menu. But he is also ready to fully assert his vision with the next dish.


Night falls. The air is crisp. Light smoke drifts lazily through the dark streets. Waves splash and retreat, splash and retreat, a soft rhythm in the darkness. There are just a few intimate tables inside. This reviews covers four different meals over the past year. Aubergine is very much a restaurant in movement – like the ocean.


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Justin Cogley Gets Grand Chef Nod; Comal's Spinoff Plans by Rose Garrett, EaterSF, December 12, 2013


Congratulations are in order for chef Justin Cogley of Aubergine in Carmel, who's just been awarded the Relais & Chateaux's Grand Chef Award for 2014. The luxury hospitality association's award has previously been bestowed on local luminaries like Christopher Kostow, Gary Danko,Michael Tusk, Thomas Keller and David Breeden.


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Additional Pickup:

Relais & Châteaux Celebrates New Members with Lunch at Daniel, Luxury Travel Magazine, December 12, 2013

Name Dropper, Monterey County Herald, December 13, 2013



Aubergine - Carmel Cool, by John Sconzo, Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life, December 3, 2013


Chef Justin Cogley’s food at Aubergine, an intimate restaurant nestled in the lovely oasis that is L’Auberge Carmel in the northern California beach town of Carmel, represents the culinary equivalent of cool. His food is also laid back, subtle and built on beautiful taste melodies. It’s a cuisine that is fluid, optimistic and definitely about feeling good. Visually, Cogley’s food avoids violent be-bop like splashes of vibrant color in favor of the sensual understatement of muted earth tones. Dinner at Aubergine is the culinary equivalent of chilling at a small California jazz club listening to some of the idiom’s best players lay down one cool riff after another.


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Aubergine - Carmel, CA, insert food blog, November 17, 2013


When traveling, it's unusual for us to visit an out-of-town restaurant more than once within a short time span - there're just so many places to try. Yet, this is our third meal at Aubergine this year - a testament to the house that Justin Cogley and Ron Mendoza have built. On this night, we shared our meal with two others who had each come long distances to dine here. Over four hours, we ate our way through 25 courses - an evening that will not soon be forgotten.


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A Visit to Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel by Carolyn Jung, Food Gal, November 8, 2013


Justin Cogley’s first career may have been as a professional figure skater with “Disney on Ice.”


But these days, you can find him spinning circles around haute cuisine as executive chef of Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel.


Cogley, who started his culinary career working at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, developed a passion for fine food and wine as his skating career took him all over Asia, Australia and Europe. At Aubergine, a jewel-box of a restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea, he’s so dazzled diners that he was even named one of Food & Winemagazine’s “Best New Chefs 2013.”


He’s all about local ingredients, even going diving with his cooks to gather their own seaweed for beautifully composed dishes.

Late this summer, I had a chance to experience his skills when I was invited as a guest to stay overnight at the inn and enjoy dinner.


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Aubergine, Carmel, CA, this guy's food blog, October 14, 2013


Last month the restaurant I work at closed for the week around Labor Day to give the staff a break. That seemed to me like the perfect time to make my yearly trek out to California. So I put together a nice little dining itinerary and headed west.

My first destination, after retrieving Rocky from a family visit in Hollister, was a night in Carmel-by-the-Sea to see what Chef Justin Cogley was cooking up by the shore. I had read up on him and what he’s working with on the Monterey Peninsula and was excited to check it out. Really excited.  We drove into town, stopped by our hotel for a moment, spent a gloriously warm and sunny few hours on the beach, then prettied up and made our way to dinner at Aubergine, the Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel.


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101 Best Hotel Restaurants Around the World 2013: #6 Aubergine, The Daily Meal, October 7, 2013


The award-winning restaurant Aubergine was voted fifth best in its area by Zagat in 2011, and executive chef Justin Cogley was honored as a 2013 "Best New Chef" by Food & Wine magazine. Cogley, an expert at "marine foraging," combs through Monterey Bay, choosing his own sea lettuces, sea beans, and various types of seaweeds to include in his dishes, and has brought a fresh, locally oriented menu to Aubergine. The nightly changing ultra-seasonal menu gives the diners an option of a four-course meal or the chef's tasting menu, featuring items such as porcini with sea lettuce and emulsion of oyster; king salmon, coastal herbs, and pineapple weed; and smoked milk chocolate with corn and raspberries. Cogley has also created the "Terroir" dinner series, where he creates a special menu inspired by a distinct local cuisine, geography, or milieu. Future dinners will be inspired by the themes of "Gastro Pub" and "The Hunting Camp."


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also listed on CNN and NBC



Chef Justin Cogley's rib eye dish, left, at Aubergine
in Carmel consists of round sake-marinated medallions wrapped in nori, served with garnishes.
Photo: Jason Henry, Special To The Chronicle

Fine tasting menus set tone for Monterey area
by Michael Bauer,
SF Chronicle , September 15, 2013


Justin Cogley's menu is built around spontaneity, so when you come in for the tasting menu, you're simply given a list of a dozen or so ingredients, and he takes it from there.


Before the first official course arrives, the tone is set with four tastes - which are also given to those who order the four-course menu ($98; wine $75).


The first is a shot glass of slightly frizzy pomegranate juice with shiso and green tea, displayed on a thick tile of wood. Shortly thereafter three more dishes arrive simultaneously: a tea-soaked quail egg in a nest of moss; a board overlaid with a fishing net that holds a shell with two seaweed wafers and a dipping sauce of "beach spinach"; and a crisp potato basket with a dab of oyster emulsion on a pile of rocks.


Then comes a raw milk custard with a lobe of sea urchin, dabs of caviar and tiny sea grapes, resulting in a silken texture with explosive taste. That was followed by yet another small pre-menu treat: a gelee of heirloom tomatoes with a mussel broth granite, creating an amazing synergy of flavor.


Cogley, who came to the restaurant about three years ago after four years at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, has crafted a menu that has a certain whimsy, an artistic repeat of ideas that drive home the locale of where he's cooking, served up in an intimate 24-seat dining room with carpeted floors, white-clothed tables and comfortable upholstered chairs. A wall of arched windows covered in sheers affords a gauzy view of Monte Verde Street. Gold and brown pencil-thin tiles cover the back wall and look as if they belong in a very nice bathroom.


After all of the chef's starters, the first official course arrives: a ballotine of young chicken on a dark wood board with tiny grapes, chanterelles and a charred baby leek subtly flavored with grape vinaigrette.


That's followed by one of the best presentations of salmon I've had, and one of the worst pairings. The fish looked like a rectangular tile covered with a spring-green paste of almonds, sea beans, coastal herbs and pineapple weed, and topped with a scattering of tiny purple flowers; a chamomile reduction is poured on tableside. The flavors in the dish were flawless, but when the 2009 Clos du Caillou Brenache Blanc was consumed after the salmon, the mineral qualities in the wine became intensely bitter, a flavor that lingered and denigrated the next bite of food. I stopped drinking immediately.


I can't be much more positive about the slightly oxidized 2003 Loped De Heredia, an obscure wine I also had at Sierra Mar. It was much less refined than the dish: beautiful slices of red abalone draped with green tissue-like sheets of sea lettuce and accompanied by tiny white hijiki mushrooms, slices of plum and at least four kinds of seaweed.


Lamb was similarly draped, this time with white milk skin that melted into the meat when it hit the mouth. It also partly shielded a slice of tongue, a slow-cooked round of shoulder and a medallion of loin; off to one side was a pea puree that held a pile of lentils not much larger than a quarter, with shavings of the dried heart that fortified the meaty theme. The waiter poured on vibrant sauce green from local sorrel and whey. Like his counterpart at Sierra Mar, Cogley mixes foraged ingredients with expensive ones to create a compelling combination.


The rib eye that followed consisted of three round sake-marinated medallions wrapped in nori. Garnishes of ginger, umeboshi plum sauce, aged soy and sake lees with Meyer lemon were lined up alongside.

From there we coasted into the cheese course: a warm sheet of Ossau Iraty from the Savoie region of France, topped with the Asian grain hato mugi and Thai long peppers.


Dessert was a round of chocolate mousse covered with a brioche tuille with tiny whole berries, a sprinkling of fruit powder and a few purple rosemary blooms. That was less impressive than what followed: a black plate with a bowl with sheep's milk yogurt with lemon and a snow flavored with pine and heaped over the top and scattered on the side.


The meal finished the way it started - with rocks. This time they were spaced out on a slate rectangle and included a dried tapioca chip, a dollop of coconut lime sauce and what looked like a black river rock but turned out to be a frozen chocolate bonbon with matcha ice cream.


It was a fine way to finish and tie the menu together. As the check arrived, so did cellophane-wrapped treats to take home. As if the menu weren't memorable enough, there was a reminder for the next day.


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Chef Diaries: Justin Cogley
Nowness, August 23, 2013


An Instagram Takeover from the Award-Winning Gastronome Inspired by the Big Sur Coast


Stumbling across starfish while foraging for sea lettuce and wild mussels, Justin Cogley translates the nourishing splendor of the Californian coast onto a plate. Named as this year’s Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine, Cogley is Head Chef at Aubergine, a diminutive, 12-table restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea, situated to the north of Big Sur. The natural beauty of the surrounding coves and tidal pools informs his cooking as much as the area’s sparkling seafood does, and has been documented by Cogley for NOWNESS’ week-long Chef Diaries Instagram series. The freshness and simplicity of Aubergine’s current tasting menu sits in stark contrast with his previous lives as Chef de Cuisine at the famed Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, and, more incongruously, as a touring professional ice skater. These days, the gastronome is sought-after for his Asian-influenced preparation of the iridescent delicacy, abalone. “We work closely with the Monterey abalone farm and watch the long journey from when they’re a couple of months to five years old. The hatchery had seven million seed but only two per cent made it to the farm, which just blows my mind,” says Cogley. “Being a city chef, you can get access to any product at any time, but you don't usually have the advantage of watching them grow before handpicking your selection.”


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A Passion for Pastry
by Deborah Luhrman, Edible Monterey Bay, Fall 2013


“The traditional way of thinking is to finish off a meal with a big scoop of chocolate mousse or a piece of chocolate fudge cake— in a sense it’s pure gluttony,” says Mendoza. “In a restaurant like Aubergine, where balance runs through the whole meal, why would you want to end with a sugar bomb that’s like a lead weight in your stomach?”


So he tries to surprise diners with desserts that are light and playful, like his Japanese cheesecake with cucumber sauce or the strawberry ice cream he sometimes makes with dried strawberries and strawberry pop rocks.


“As you are eating it, there’s a little fizz that’s unexpected. It reawakens your palate and reawakens you cerebrally. Then once you realize it’s pop rocks, everyone starts acting like a child and it reinvigorates you,” he explains.


Mendoza—who has been at Aubergine six years—came to Carmel by way of Patina in Los Angeles and Napa’s famed French Laundry. He started out chopping vegetables in a Los Ange- les steakhouse and loves to tell the story of his first night on the job, which he spent slicing heirloom tomatoes at a private birthday dinner for none other than Julia Child.


“The Central Coast has really good products but lacks the influences of the big city; that’s the difficult part of being here and it’s also the nice part,” he says. He stays completely immersed in the culinary world and keeps up on the latest dessert trends through social media, trading photos with pastry chefs around the world on Instagram. He also writes his own food blog called “One Spoon Quenelle.”


While top pastry chefs have always had an arsenal of precision equipment and techniques at their disposal, Mendoza sees their style of creativity now blossoming on the savory side. “Chefs now use many of the same techniques as we do. They don’t just sear a piece of meat and add some potatoes. There are lots of ideas going back and forth between pastry and savory.”


Aubergine Chef Justin Cogley, who in April was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 2013 Best New Chefs, for example, uses pastry techniques in making his Black Trumpet Mushroom Gelée, as well as savory mousses and ice creams, which he plates in careful dessert-like compositions. Likewise, Mendoza draws inspiration from the savory dishes. Recently, a coriander carrot side dish spurred him to add carrot cake with coriander ice cream to one of his dessert plates.


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Driving California's Pacific Coast Part Three
by Christopher Mariani, Virtual Gourmet, July 28, 2013


After years of high praise from the media, the accolades for Aubergine continue to roll in. Just this year, Food & Wine’s best new chef of 2013 award went to chef Justin Cogley. Congratulations chef!

We entered Aubergine (below) and were greeted by a tall, handsome gentleman who knew exactly who we were. We  sat at our spacious table and immediately took notice of the attractive simplicity of our surroundings. Beige and sandstone colors coated the walls, the furniture splashed with hints of polished dark wood. The space is small and intimate, exactly why the experience is so special and impressive on every level. That evening, we ordered off the four-course prix-fix menu ($98) and opted for a conservatively priced bottle of wine (not easy to find on such a stout wine list) rather than the sommelier’s wine pairing, worth $110. Dungeness crab bathed in a pool of rose water and coconut with a subtle hint of the floral geranium flower. Bone marrow came smoked, served in a highly concentrated broth of burnt vegetables and topped with beautifully presented pickled maitake mushrooms. Next, a single Maine diver's scallop sat in its shell floating in a lemon balm soup. The highlight of our meal was chef Cogley’s Japanesekampachi, gracefully decorated with dates and smoked roe, finished with traces of vanilla and saffron. Chef Cogley did a superb job of never overpowering his main ingredient, even when toying with such powerfully distinct flavors. We were also lucky enough to enjoy Aubergine’s beautifully marbleized Japanese Kobe steak, a rarity in terms of quality and authenticity. (The price reflects such legitimacy.) Desserts were equally impressive, including a Nyangbo chocolate bar topped with grapefruit and peanut butter. Also notable, a sweet cooked pear with celeriac mouse and wood sorrel. Cogley’s dishes were leaders in presentation and flavor, a common remark by anyone who has had the opportunity to dine at Aubergine.


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Get To Know Aubergine’s Buzzed-About New Head Chef
by the Maria C. Hunt, Forbes Travel Guide Blog, July 18, 2013


Carmel-by-the-Sea has been known as an artists’ colony and a golfers’ paradise for decades. But the oceanside California enclave is gaining a reputation for serious cuisine, thanks to chef Justin Cogley of Aubergine, the Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel. The up-and-coming chef is generating buzz for his inventive and focused seafood cuisine at the upscale restaurant.


The Pennsylvania native had an early start in the kitchen; he was making classic French desserts like crème brûlée and soufflés for dinner guests while he was still in kindergarten. He later attended the Western Culinary Institute (now Le Cordon Bleu) in Portland, Oregon, then worked for Charlie Trotter at his eponymous restaurant in Chicago for five years and helped open The Elysian (now the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Waldorf Astoria Chicago) before making his way out to Carmel.


In his previous life, Cogley spent two years traveling the world as a professional ice skater with Disney on Ice (he admits that he was one of the princes — but he won’t say which one). The talented chef recently spoke to Forbes Travel Guide before jetting off to the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen earlier this summer, where his poulard, liver, seaweed vinegar and coastal herbs creation drew a lot of praise.


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Justin Cogley, The Lift from Aspen 82, June 15, 2013



Justin Cogley | The Lift from Aspen 82 on Vimeo.



Check That ID, Carmel Magazine, page 159, Spring / Summer 2013


Executive Chef Justin Cogley of Aubergine in Carmel personally sources each ingredient he uses, and when something's imported, he gets a certificate of authenticity and a detailed birth certificate with each animal's nose print.


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  TripAdvisor is delighted to recognize Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel with a 2013 Certificate of Excellence,
May 2013



Opinionated About Dining

Aubergine awarded #8 of Top Nothern California Restaurants

Aubergine awarded #5 of Top New American Restaurants

Aubergine awarded #39 of Top US Restaurants

Opinionated About Dining, May 30, 2013




Aubergine in Entree Magazine, page 11, May-June 2013


ONE OF THE MOST TALENTED YOUNG CHEFS IN AMERICA IS CREATING unforgettable dining for lucky food lovers at Aubergine in L’Auberge Carmel Relais & Chateaux. Aubergine is the intimate 42-seat restaurant of the deluxe L’Auberge Carmel, run by owner David Fink. Its warm European country mood is an extension of the hotel with a smooth mix of treasured antiques, soft lighting, cool stone walls and good original paintings. The supremely gifted chef, Justin Cogley, learned a few tricks while at Charlie Trotter’s, but today his cooking is one-of-a-kind, a modern celebration of the biodiversity of California’s Coastal Cuisine. Cogley, who was most recently named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2013, is an artist who uses pure, fresh products like paints on a palette, with skill, restraint, finesse and patient understanding. He is not one for big plates of jumbled food, rather for him the
objective is getting at the essence of taste.


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travel: rediscovering coastal cuisine
by the ulterior epicure
, April 24, 2013


Justin Cogley, chef of Aubergine, and John Shields, formerly of TownHouse, had been batting around the idea of mounting a collaboration dinner. The two had worked together at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago years ago. After two years of talking about it, they finally made it happen last month in Carmel.

Cogley and Shields invited Matthias Merges (now chef of Yusho and Billy Sunday in Chicago), under whom both had cooked at Trotter’s.  Cogley also invited Scott Anderson (chef of Elements in Princeton, New Jersey), James Syhabout (chef of commis and Hawker Fare in Oakland, California), and George Mendes (chef of Aldea in New York City).  And, because I knew all of these guest chefs well, Cogley (who, alone, I had not met until this trip) asked me to photograph this event.*


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Photographs from Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine Weekend
by Ulterior Epicure, Flickr, March 2013


Aubergine (2013)

Aubergine (rediscovering coastal cuisine; 2013)

Aubergine (breakfast on the beach; 2013)



Amazing Tastes: Justin Cogley and Aubergine’s April Tasting Menu
by Mark Anderson
, MC Weekly, April 17, 2013


The “food”—shape-shifting delicacies like mussel sorbet and raw milk-urchin panna cotta—comes in waves which, fittingly enough, taste like the Pacific, wash around the mouth and swell both the palate’s vivacity and curiosity.

And that’s just the amuse bouche.

There exist few better ways to celebrate Justin Cogley’s deserved spot on Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs list than incredible bites and dozens of bottles of Dom in the beautiful patio, redone dining and cool cellar space at L’Auberge Relais and Chateaux (624-8578), which was the modus operandi for last Thursday’s soiree.

But I managed one better way: taking Cogley up on an invite later that night to see how much has changed since my last visit.


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Carmel chef Justin Cogley one of the best in U.S.
KSBW Television, April 12, 2013


Watch Here Video Here



Justin Cogley

Justin Cogley is FOOD & WINE’s Best New Chef 2013

April 2, 2013


WHY HE’S AMAZING Because he combines ultra-seasonal ingredients with flavors from his world travels, creating a menu that changes nightly and that’s purely Northern California.

 The Western Culinary Institute (Portland, OR)

 Charlie Trotter’s (Chicago)


QUINTESSENTIAL DISH Abalone and oyster with pickled sea beans and wild sea lettuce on a braised pig’s tail cake

 In his early 20s, Cogley toured the world as a professional figure skater with Disney on Ice. “We had so much downtime when the show was being transferred to different cities—it could take as long as a month. We’d eat out wherever we could.”

 “It was very natural. I was so used to working long hours. Restaurants were a natural fit for me.”

Precision and spontaneity: Cogley’s dishes look like tiny scenes from nature—seemingly unscripted but composed.



Cogley cooks up savory post-skating career by Lois Elman,, April 25, 2013


In San Juan, 'Best New Chef' Jose Enrique shines by S. Irene Virbila, LA Times Daily Dish, April 3, 2013


Food Fodder Radio Show with Off the Menu and Grub Hunter, KRML, April 3, 2013 (download mp3, 13 mb)


Food and Wine lists 2013's best new chef, CBS This Morning, April 2, 2013


Former figure skater is among top new U.S. chefs by Richard Leong, Reuters, April 2, 2013


Aubergine's Justin Cogley wins F&W Mag Best New Chef, Edible Monterey Bay, April 2, 2013


10 Things You May Not Know About F&W Best New Chef Justin Cogley by Meesha Halm, Zagat, April 2, 2013


Bowien, Cogley Are Food & Wine 2013 Best New Chefs, Eater SF, April 2, 2013


Danny Bowien, Justin Cogley among Food & Wine’s 2013 Best New Chefs by Paolo Lucchesi, Inside Scoop SF, April 2, 2013


Carmel chef honored by Food & Wine magazine, The Californian, April 2, 2013





The Most Romantic Old-World Hideaway in Northern California: L'Auberge Carmel by Ann Abel

The Most Romantic Old-World Hideaway in Northern California: L'Auberge Carmel by Ann Abel, March 21, 2013


Unsurprisingly for a Relais & Châteaux member, the hotel’s Aubergine restaurant is widely regarded as one of the best on California’s Central Coast. The 12-table dining room got a new glittering gold-tiled wall; a fish tank for keeping spot prawns, sea urchins, and abalone alive until minutes before they’re served; and a petite cheese cave at the entrance. But the 4,500-bottle wine cellar and above-and-beyond service haven’t changed—wine pairings were superb, and when I asked if I could close the curtains by my table because I was cold, a space heater quickly materialized.


Neither has chef Justin Cogley’s (a Charlie Trotter alum) winning approach to ingredient-driven coastal cuisine—a representative standout is the fresh-from-his-tank Monterey Bay abalone with seaweed that Japanese foragers risk their lives to harvest. That mix of ultra-seasonal local ingredients and flavors from Cogley’s world travels recently earned him a nomination for Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Chef award, and makes his changing-nightly menus ($98 for four courses or $125 for the “spontaneous chef’s tasting”) worth their price.


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Best Restaurant to Splurge: Aubergine

Best Restaurant to Splurge: Aubergine

Monterey Weekly, March 14, 2013


Local Dungeness crab paired with nitrogen-prepared coconut froth is a rare treat. And ridiculously fresh Monterey Bay abalone plucked from the kitchen tank within 10 minutes of consumption and garnished with seaweed that Japanese foragers risk their lives to harvest can only be described as a small miracle. Chef Justin Cogley creates these kinds of moments on a daily basis; keeping his cuisine unbelievably simple, while at the same time blowing minds. Generally one prodigious taste-wizard in a restaurant is enough, but Aubergine boasts the skills of Chef Ron Mendoza in the realm of pastry/sorbet/milkballs/holy wow as well. It all makes for a rare destination where $120 for a tasting menu is actually a good value.



Eat Your Way Through Carmel by Dana Rebmann

Eat Your Way Through Carmel by Dana Rebmann

7x7 SF, March 14, 2013


Make it a date and an affair to remember at Zagat rated Aubergine. Create a personalized menu from a variety of dishes on the four-course menu or let the chef do his thing and surprise you with each plate on the chef’s tasting menu. Along with incredible flavors and beautiful presentations, expect to see the chef have some artistic culinary fun.


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Aubergine Awarded Best Service by Open Table Diners

Aubergine Awarded Best Service by Open Table Diners

March 2013



Justin Cogley is Nominated for FOOD & WINE’s The People’s Best New Chef® 2013 award, March 11, 2013

Justin Cogley is Nominated for FOOD & WINE’s The People’s Best New Chef® 2013 award, March 11, 2013


WHY HE’S AMAZING Because he combines ultra-seasonal ingredients with flavors from his world travels, creating a menu that changes nightly and that’s purely Northern California.

CULINARY SCHOOL The Western Culinary Institute (Portland, OR)

BACKGROUND Charlie Trotter’s (Chicago)

QUINTESSENTIAL DISH Abalone and oyster with pickled sea beans and wild sea lettuce on a braised pig’s tail cake

PREVIOUS CAREER In his early 20s, Cogley toured the world as a professional figure skater with Disney on Ice. “We had so much downtime when the show was being transferred to different cities—it could take as long as a month. We’d eat out wherever we could.”

ON HIS TRANSITION FROM SKATER TO CHEF “It was very natural. I was so used to working long hours. Restaurants were a natural fit for me.”

TAKEAWAY FROM CHARLIE TROTTER’S PRECISION AND SPONTANEITYPrecision and spontaneity: Cogley’s dishes look like tiny scenes from nature—seemingly unscripted but composed.





Aubergine Chef Hosts Epic Meal by Mike Hale

Monterey Herald, March 5, 2013


Chefs love working with the finest ingredients available because they spark excitement and creativity. But they also scream out for restraint. No chef knows this more than Justin Cogley, who tries to find a sophisticated balance between innovation and purity, knowing that he must often pull back in deference to what nature provides.

The brilliant chef at Aubergine in Carmel tracks down the finest ingredients on the planet (most of them from Monterey County), and he lets them shine on the plate with "complex simplicity" (an oxymoronic phrase to the layman, but logical to a chef). No confusing, muddled flavors, just a harmonious, flavor-packed tribute to quality.

It's simply brilliant.

Take his treatment of Monterey Bay abalone. Tender and succulent, the mollusk is sliced and served with local sea grapes (small, fluid-filled bulbs that resemble Pinot Noir grapes) and alba mushrooms (a clamshell variety that is distinguished by its mild shellfish flavor). Cogley ties it together with a broth spiked with umeboshi (Japanese pickled salt plums) and bits of seawater suspended in a gel.

The dish tastes of the ocean, briny and sweet and delicate.

Or how about Cogley's ribeye? This is no cliché seen in steakhouses. He starts with imported Wagyu beef from the Miyazaki Prefecture in the southern islands of Kyushu, Japan. It is recognized as the most superior beef in the world, and each shipment comes with 100percent traceability, including a detailed birth

certificate that even includes an animal nose-print.


This well-marbled, succulent beef is seared simply, but served alongside complex flavors of yellow beet, tonka bean (a wrinkled legume from South America that imparts flavors of vanilla, almond and spicy cinnamon) and fermented black garlic. No knife needed here as the meat melts on your tongue.

"I spend a lot of time getting the best ingredients," Cogley said "I try my best not to get in the way. I want the flavors to be unique and pure."


Toward that end, the restaurant underwent a recent renovation, including new carpeting, fabrics, lighting and chairs — and a custom-built cheese cave to hold Cogley's amazing fromagerie collection. In the kitchen, he installed a live fish tank with a bio-wheel to create the perfect environment for live spot prawns, sea cucumbers and abalone.


Prior to his career as a chef, Cogley took a turn as a professional international figure skater with "Disney on Ice." Traveling and touring with the show for four years in Asia, Australia and Europe, Cogley became fascinated with new flavors and cuisines.


When he returned to the United States, he enrolled at the Western Culinary Institute. After graduating with top honors in 2005, he launched his culinary career at the prestigious Charlie Trotter's in Chicago before moving to Carmel.


Cogley's talent is no secret. A large circle of chefs knows about his exploits at Aubergine, and five of the most esteemed chefs in the country will visit on Saturday for an epic 12-course meal designed to rediscover coastal cuisine. Cogley will host the dinner and join the five chefs (Scott Anderson, Elements, New Jersey; James Syhabout, Commis, Oakland; Matthias Merges, Yusho, Chicago; George Mendes, Aldea, New York; and John Shields, formerly of Town House in Washington, D.C., and now building his own concept) in creating two dishes apiece. The meal is sold out (at $250 a plate, not including wine), which reveals a lot about Cogley's talent and reputation.


Now it's about convincing the Michelin Guide to venture this far south. If that happens (and there are rumors that it will this spring), a "star" will definitely be born.




The Weekly Feed by Carolyn Alburger

San Francisco Magazine, March 4, 2013

Another gathering of amazing chefs from across the country will be going down this Saturday in Carmel atAubergine. The local talents are James Syhaboutof Commis, and Justin Cogley of Aubergine, who will be cooking a 12-course tasting menu in concert with George Mendes of AldeaMatthias Merges of YushoJohn Shields, and Scott Anderson ofElements. It’s not every day chefs like this come together in one dining room, so if you can spring for the $250 price tag (plus $110 for wine pairings), you probably won’t be disappointed.




Aubergine's Coastal Dinner; Solstice's Last Night by Allie Pape

Eater SF, February 27, 2013


Yes, it's a bit of a drive, but the powerhouse quintet of chefs cooking with Justin Cogley at Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel next Saturday is definitely worth the trip: the lineup includes John Shields (Virginia's Town House), George Mendes (NYC's Aldea), Matthias Merges (Chicago'sYusho), Scott Anderson (Princeton, NJ's Elements), and Oakland's ownJames Syhabout (Commis). The theme is "Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine," and the 12-course tasting menu will be $250 ($360 with wine pairings). 


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Expect the Unexpected by Alison Clare Steingold

Expect the Unexpected by Alison Clare Steingold

C Magazine, March 2013


Charlie Trotter alum Justin Cogley presides over 12-table gem Aubergine, at the extensively remodeled-and impossibly charming- Relais & Chateaux property L’Auberge Carmel. His menu consists of a long, illustrated ingredients list (think dulse and hijiki seaweeds, abalone, exotic tonka bean, young coconut). Spontaneous courses could be persimmon-oolong tea sparklers, liquid nitrogen-ed chestnuts, or petite fried mussels dotted with rare, caviar-like finger limes. Former Soma pastry whiz Ron Mendoza also shines with his desserts presentations. When five or so river stones are set along a platter, one discovers two tangerine sherbet treats enrobed in ashed cookie coating, frosty and indistinguishable from the real thing. Indeed, surprised abound with no stone left unturned.


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Central Coast cooking classes dish up big fun, flavor

Central Coast cooking classes dish up big fun, flavor

by Christine Delsol, SFGate, February 20, 2013


You have a choice between sweet and savory at L'Auberge, a Relais & Chateaux hotel whose Aubergine is one of California's most acclaimed restaurants. Executive Chef Justin Cogley and Executive Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza alternate teaching duties for hands-on "In the Aubergine Kitchen" classes, designed for all skill levels.

Each series, savory and sweet, meets monthly throughout the year. Cogley's savory classes, which started 2013 with knife skills and chicken butchery, will embark on a three-part Sauce Odyssey (seafood, lamb and shellfish) for the next few months. Look for Monterey Bay abalone and easy vegetarian cooking this summer, and Farm-to-table cooking and a Thanksgiving crash course in the fall. Mendoza's temptations range from simple chocolate treats, traditional pound cakes and ever-versatile apples and strawberries to crème anglaise and pate sucree, a sweet, crumbly tart dough. Halloween treats and Thanksgiving pies are also on the schedule.


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Aubergine - Carmel, CA, Insert food, February 9, 2013

Aubergine - Carmel, CA, Insert food, February 9, 2013


L'Auberge Carmel, a beautiful and historic inn, where Justin Cogley and Ron Mendoza just happen to be working magic in the kitchen. On this night, the main dining room was reserved for a private event, so we dined at a lone table in the privacy of the restaurant's wine cellar (making the experience all the more special), where the kitchen served us 22 courses over four hours.


Full Story Here



Down-Low Diner: Aubergine- The Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel by Allyson Thommen

Down-Low Diner: Aubergine- The Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel by Allyson Thommen

SeeMonterey Blog, February 1, 2013


If there is one restaurant in Carmel that I have been dying to try it is Aubergine. The high end restaurant located at the elegant L’Auberge Carmel has caught the attention of the best food critics in the business and has received multiple awards from the likes of Zagat and Open Table. Recently Aubergine was even listed on Zagat’s “2012 Top Five Restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area” putting it on the charts with The French Laundry and Gary Danko. With such glowing reviews for its impeccable service, suburb tastes and overall ambiance I just had to see what the buzz was all about.

Lucky for me I had the pleasure to attend their grand re-opening for a special strolling dinner on January 31st. The well-established eatery just underwent a facelift fusing contemporary elements to their existing classic European feel.


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Sampling Monterey County's Bounty by David Armstrong

Alaska Airlines, February 2013


At L’Auberge Carmel, a 1929 inn that updated its 20 guestrooms and its restaurant, Aubergine, in December, chef Justin Cogley has installed a new glass-fronted, 15-square-foot “cheese cave” to showcase global and regional cheeses in a climate-controlled environment. Cogley serves California and world cuisine, with an ever-changing menu of dishes ranging from Monterey Bay abalone to Japanese Hamachi. I savor every dish on the restaurant’s “Four-Course Menu.”


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10 Must-Try Black Truffle Dishes in SF Bay Area by Meesha Halm

10 Must-Try Black Truffle Dishes in SF Bay Area by Meesha Halm

Zagat, January 23, 2013


Black truffles abound on the new four-course tasting menu and the more extensive Spontaneous Chef's Tasting Menu down in the newly renovated Relais & Château restaurant in Monterey, run by chef Justin Cogley (a noted Charlie Trotter alum). You'll find this diver scallop dish served with black truffle scallop mousse, truffle conserve and Meyer lemon on both ($98 per person for the four-course; $125 for the tasting menu). 


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Grand Reopening at Aubergine Delivers Fresh New Future

Grand Reopening at Aubergine Delivers Fresh New Future

by Mark Anderson, Weekly, January 16, 2013


After my first Aubergine experience with Justin Cogley and Ron Mendoza, I turned to every tool I could find to attempt to describe it - poetry, inspirational quotes and photographs among them. 


I ultimately wrote (in part) that they delivered "10 small plates of big possibility, precise miniature harmonies that bridged reality and fantasy by connecting seemingly mutually exclusive domains - the simple and complex, the familiar and the mysterious, the calming and the energizing."


Put differently, the place is flat-out inspiring. And now they're only amplifying the feel and flavor of the fine dining destination with upgrades to the room and the freshness of the fare. Check out the video we shot Monday:


Watch Chef Cogley Work


More good news: While dinner there can be expensive, the upcoming open houses - complete with snacks and tours of the restaurant and super fly hotel on Jan. 18 and 25 - are free. Cogley's new canapes are also more approachable and affordable. 

And the grand reopening Jan. 31, while not cheap by any stretch ($98), is a serious bargain for al-you-can-eat amazingness.

It includes clever house cocktails, fine sparkling wines, Kumomoto and Caraquet oysters at the raw bar, chilled Maine lobster salad, Dungeness crab on par with what you saw in the video, Royal Select California Estate Caviar, Wagyu beef and Hawaiian blue prawns on the yakitori grill, all sorts of escabeches and pork lomo and salchichon Catalan tapas in the kitchen, exclusive cheeses in the wine cellar and insane Mendoza desserts all over the place.

Grand is right.



Perfect Meal 2012

Perfect Meal 2012

ChuckEats, January 3, 3013


Strawberry and cuttlefish haunted as a careful orchestration of unlikely partners. With each bite, the roe popped, burst into brine, and finish with a taste of smoke. And sweetness would cling to the smoke. The strawberries too would breach, bright and acidic at first, but left a faint sweetness that paired with the smoke. They mingled with the chew of the cuttlefish textures. A stunning work of art from Justine Cogley – a Charlie Trotter veteran. If you’re visiting the Bay Area, blaze down the 1 or through the mountains, and allocate a night for Carmel two hours away – believe.


Snow fell in Carmel just before the New Year with this sublime dish of liquid nitrogen cream cheese flavored with pine. Every bite was just a touch gummy, requiring an extra chew that swathed the mouth with strong pine notes. Seated by the window, you could just feel the Holiday air rush in. And that chew was just so satisfying! A small tang from the sour cream hung on the finish. Followed by the Candy Cap, Maple, Sorrel below, these two desserts were a stunning end to my last meal out in 2012. Eat your Christmas Tree!


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The Great Catch Up Part 2 - Another 25 Restaurants
That I Visited This Year

Opinionated About Dining, November 27, 2012


Aubergine (Carmel-by-the-Sea) – Justin Cogley is doing a great job at this kitchen in the lovely L’Auberge de Carmel, located a short block and a half off of the main drag at this lovely seaside village. A veteran of Charlie Trotter’s kitchen, when Cogley replaced Christophe Grosjean, he had the difficult task of modernizing this restaurant’s cuisine, while keeping a clientele that is predominantly older and well-heeled, and not necessarily open to new culinary concepts, happy and wanting to come back. How did he manage it? With well thought out and tasty dishes like live spot prawn, frozen apple and smoked char roe and ribeye, yellow beet, tonka bean and black garlic. You get to enjoy Cogley’s cooking in an intimate 12 table dining room which comes with a wine list that can be easily described as stupendous. Recommended ++ 




L'Auberge Carmel & Aubergine Restaurant

Goes Through Extensive Remodel
Luxury Travel Magazine, November 22, 2012


Updates to Aubergine restaurant, reflecting a chic contemporary sophistication, consist of new carpeting, fabrics, lighting and chairs, plus a large art piece featuring a dramatic “wave” photograph. Executive Chef Justin Cogley is particularly excited about the new custom-built cheese cave, designed to preserve the chef’s fromagerie collection. Aubergine has also recently installed a live fish tank in the kitchen, where Chef Cogley stocks live spot prawns, sea cucumbers and abalone to serve on his ever-changing menu.


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World Class Dining at Aubergine Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel by Joe Davis

World Class Dining at Aubergine Restaurant at L’Auberge Carmel by Joe Davis, November 20, 2012


Executive Chef Justin Cogley is known for creating sophisticated modern California cuisine using locally sourced, artisan, luxury and highly seasonal ingredients. Diners are presented with two tasting menu choices. The Four Course Dinner has options in each course and the Spontaneous Chef’s Tasting Menu, which is only offered for your entire table, is designed using twenty ultra-seasonal ingredients. A Sommelier’s Wine Pairing is an option for both.


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It's Dessert for Dinner in Sand City by Mike Hale

Monterey County Herald, November 20, 2012


It's a familiar dream: Not just dessert before dinner, but dessert for dinner, each course prepared by the finest pastry chefs in California. And to complete the fantasy (and alleviate some of the guilt), all the proceeds from the "dinner" benefit a local charity.


It's not heaven. Or Iowa. It's Sand City and it's all happening as described inside an art gallery, costing you $70 (and approximately 339 reps on the Ab-Roller). Called Dessert First, the event takes place at 5p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6, as a backdrop to the Independent Marketplace.


The benefit is the brainchild of pastry chef Ron Mendoza of Aubergine in Carmel, who invited area colleagues Ben Spungin (Marinus, Carmel Valley), Yulanda Santos (Sierra Mar, Big Sur) and Stephanie Prida (Manresa, Los Gatos). The four sweet geniuses lead the pastry programs at what are without a doubt the four most acclaimed fine-dining restaurants in the wide swath between San Jose and Santa Barbara.


"It seemed like a neat idea," said Mendoza, who was inspired by a recent trend in New York where a handful of restaurants don't relegate confections to meal's end — instead giving the sweet stuff center stage, and letting it shine via unusual ingredients and interesting concoctions. "Normally (pastry chefs) don't do an entire dinner on our own. It will be fun to work together and pull this off, in the spirit of New York."


These four pastry chefs have set the standard for excellence and innovation, and their efforts will benefit MEarth, a local nonprofit (on the 10-acre grounds of The Hilton Bialek Habitat at Carmel Middle School) that connects students with the greater planet and its well being.


A reception will begin at 5p.m. with hand-passed, savory canapes and live music.


Guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy the work of local photographer Michelle Magdalena Maddox (, on the walls inside the Independent Gallery. Cocktails by Vanessa, "The Drink Mixtress," will be available for guests at an additional cost.


The dinner itself will be served family-style from two long tables. The evening will conclude with tiny, bite-sized desserts called mignardise along with assorted other take-home treats.


Expect some daring takes on dessert from wildly talented chefs. Mendoza, for example, had a savory-chef background before working at iconic restaurants such as Patina in Los Angeles and The French Laundry in Yountville, the latter under the tutelage of superstar chef Thomas Keller. As pastry sous chef there, Mendoza cultivated a quest for perfection and a passionate respect for ingredients. His style is creative and modern, and he loves playing with savory ingredients inside his desserts.


Santos joined the new team at Sierra Mar following a long stint at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in Sonoma County and loves creating seasonal dessert menus. Spungin is wildly creative, and also cut his teeth at The French Laundry before joining the Marinus team in 2005. Prida is a newcomer at chef David Kinch's Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos, arriving after working for similarly starred eateries in Chicago.


"The four of us know each other but it's hard to create time to work together," Mendoza said. "This will be an exciting opportunity."

All four chefs have donated their time and the restaurants will cover all food costs. Tickets are available online


Remodel for Aubergine

The above-mentioned Aubergine will close for two weeks in December as part of the L'Auberge Carmel's extensive remodel project.

This is the first remodel of the historic property, owned and operated since 2004 by David Fink and his Mirabel Hotel & Restaurant Group. Renovation details include upgrades to 20 guest rooms, the lobby and courtyard, and the restaurant.


The new Aubergine will reflect a chic contemporary sophistication and receive new carpeting, fabrics, lighting and chairs, plus a large art piece featuring a dramatic "wave" photograph. Executive Chef Justin Cogley is particularly excited about the new custom-built cheese cave, designed to preserve the chef's fromagerie collection. Aubergine has also recently installed a live fish tank in the kitchen, where Cogley stocks live spot prawns, sea cucumbers and abalone to serve on his ever-changing menu.


The outdoor brick courtyard also will be refurbished, adding new castiron patio furniture and landscaping, including an herb garden for Cogley and his crew.



Creme of Carmel by Bob & Sue

Creme of Carmel by Bob & Sue
Andrew Zimmern.Com, August 30, 2012


The best restaurant in the greater Pebble Beach area may be Aubergine in the L’Auberge Carmel. Charlie Trotter trained chef Justin Cogley delivers highly creative dishes ranging from a Kumamoto oyster amuse with cucumber jelly and yuzu foam to Monterey Bay abalone paired with pickled sea lettuce, alba mushrooms and an oyster leaf and Japanese plum, and Australian wagyu beef with smoked cherry juice, bay leaf and morels. This comfortable gem of a restaurant keeps getting better with its thoughtful menu and wine list selections.



Abalone: Local, delectable, and not as daunting as I previously imagined by Camilla M. Mann

Abalone: Local, delectable, and not as daunting as I previously imagined by Camilla M. Mann

Edible Monterey Bay Blog, August 27, 2012


I recently had the opportunity to shuck it, pound it, cook it, and plate it under the tutelage of Executive Chef Justin Cogley during his “Monterey Bay Abalone” class.


Each month enthusiasts can attend culinary classes in the kitchen of Aubergine restaurant at L’Auberge hotel in Carmel. Cogley leads the series of savory classes, while Executive Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza teaches the sweets. Previous offerings have included: The Mystery of Old World Grains; Plate Like a Professional; and Working with Raw Fish and Sake. This fall they offer: Adventures in Appetizers; Curds and Creams; and Savory Sauces – The Next Level. If my class was any indication, people come from far and wide to attend these two-hour culinary adventures.


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Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel – Fog of the Sea

Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel – Fog of the Sea

Chuck Eats, August 13, 2012


With the sting of an herb and brine of the sea, Justin Cogley’s food at Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel captures the Central Coast outside. Ocean mists and forest floors. His palette is largely the surrounding land and it clearly influences his work. And just as oranges, reds, violets, and blue swirl together during a Carmel sunset, flavors blend seamlessly in strong focused dishes. Naturalist, without masking ingredients, it also draws much from across the Pacific.


A short drive from the Bay Area, Aubergine has generally been omitted from the recent stories of California cooking. This is unfair.1 The surrounding beaches, mountains, hills, forests, fields, and farms are ripe with ample bounty. Microclimates persist throughout the region. Some areas get daily waves of fog and afternoon breeze; others are geographically protected. This allows for diversity of crop. And while hours don’t make a difference, it is closer to the seafood. Plying his craft away from media cycles, Cogley is an emerging voice in the exploration of California’s regional terroir.


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5 Bay Area Dining Destinations Worth Traveling For

5 Bay Area Dining Destinations Worth Traveling For
Zagat, July 30, 2012


No. 4: Aubergine
It’s the “crème of Carmel” and “special in every way” gush groupies of this “charming”, “intimate” Relais & Châteaux Californian turning out “absolutely exquisite” prix fixe meals “with wine pairings that will leave you talking for days” ferried by service “so good it raises the bar”; true, it also “pushes the envelope on price” and can be “a bit pretentious”, but if you “don’t come underdressed” (jackets suggested) and “bring several credit cards”, “you’ll be richly rewarded”; P.S. the arrival of a new chef might not be fully reflected in the Food score.


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 Guide by Betsy Malloy
May 2012


Dining at the on-premises restaurant Aubergine offers a chance to enjoy the creations of two outstanding chefs, Justin Cogley and Ron Mendoza, who are raising the bar for some of the town's longer-standing establishments. The "spontaneous chef’s tasting menu," described only by a list of ingredients was one of the finest meals we've had - anywhere - and the sommelier's wine pairings were equally skillful.


We're not alone in our opinion, either. Aubergine was voted fifth best in San Francisco and the Bay Area by Zagat.


When they're not running Aubergine and sister properties (Cantinetta Luca and Salumeria Luca) Cogley and Mendoza teach monthly cooking classes. The groups are small and unlike many cooking classes we've attended, they're hands-on, with samples to take home. Even better, they're helpful beyond preparation of the dish at hand, teaching the technique along with the recipe in the style of professional a cooking institute.


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Dinner for Two by Dr. Stefan Elfenbein

Dinner for Two by Dr. Stefan Elfenbein
Luxury, May Issue


(German, PDF 7 mb)




Top 25 Northern California Restaurants

Aubergine #13 - Top 25 North California

#66 in Top 100 US Restaurants
Opinionated About Dining 2012 Restaurant Survey


Justin Cogley, a veteran of Charlie Trotter's kitchen, has kept Aubergine in the running for the honors of the top dining destination on the Central Coast. Cogley’s cooking is dominated by local ingredients, and you are likely to find dishes such as a chilled Dungeness crab with young coconut, roasted banana and candied peanut, Monterey Bay spot prawns with yuzu and a fennel purée emulsified with olive oil, or whole roasted Grimaud Farms duck for two with date, saffron and Szechuan peppercorns gracing his menu. A 4,500-bottle wine list means you won't have much of a problem finding something interesting to drink with your meal, and a cozy dining room (there are a mere 12 tables) make this “one of the most romantic restaurants in the country.“


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11 Awesome Amuse Bouches From Across the U.S.

11 Awesome Amuse Bouches From Across the U.S.

by Jennifer Evans Gardner
Zagat, April 17, 2012


First impressions are everything, and for some chefs, a singular bite is both a way to welcome a guest and offer a fleeting glimpse of what is to come. An amuse bouche - quite literally “to amuse the mouth” - is small and delicate, yet the flavor is big and complex, its aim in life quite simple: to ignite the palate.

An amuse is not something that can be ordered; rather, it is a gift from the chef, so in that spirit, it’s a surprise when it arrives on a tiny plate, in a petite demitasse cup, or perched on a single spoon. Exactly what it is may depend on what’s in season, or simply the chef’s mood that evening. Will it be a liquid olive, an oyster poached in cream and studded with caviar, or a thimbleful of intensely flavored soup? The following are some of our favorite signature amuse bouches around the U.S.


Aubergine, Carmel, CA

At this restaurant, recognized in Zagat’s 2012 San Francisco Bay Area RestaurantSurvey as one of the Top Five Restaurants, Executive Chef Justin Cogley presents a signature amuse bouche which simulates at least three five senses: lemon verbena mousse with cocoa crumbs and spring baby onion flowers.


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Abject Terroir, Aubergine elevates the art of service

Abject Terroir, Aubergine elevates the art of service
by Mark C. Anderson

MC Weekly, March 8, 2012


The handiwork from Zagat-seducing exec chef Justin Cogley and pastry wiz Ron Mendoza was nothing short of head-shaking. They interpreted this installment’s “grasslands” theme into six courses where creativity and flavor raced one another upward: Think delicate turnips stuffed with foie gras and bedded in a cradle of wheatgrass and kissably tender North Dakota bison with smoked eggplant and a buckwheat crumble crunch with clairvoyantly paired wines from France and Napa.

But my interlocutor on this evening (her name’s Wendy Thorpe) seems to prize service above all – even the celestial, liquid-center “cereal milk truffle” that closed the meal. And in delivering attention that might surpass the tastes – and certainly elevates them – these Aubergine peeps set the standard locally. Guys like sommelier Marin Nadalin don’t just remember your name, but your tastes and tendencies, all in a way that’s genuine and disarming rather than pretentious or off-putting. Like Thorpe said, “There is some synchronicity in this.”


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Justin Cogley

Three Restaurants that are the Talk of the Town
by Dr. Stefan Elfenbei

VIP International Traveller, February 2012


Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel, Carmel… and now we are heading far away, across the Atlantic and the USA, to California. For decades now artists, bon vivants, the high society of Los Angeles and San Francisco have been drawn to the chic little town of Carmel, on the renowned Highway One, between the cliffs and fabulous beaches. Chef Justin Cogley is now there, too. And his is a name to note! Really! Absolutely! Cogley has set up residence at the Relais & Chateaux establishment L’Auberge Carmel, the finest place in town. He learned his trade with Charlie Trotter in Chicago. And he brought his young, wild, bold cuisine along with him. Previously, the cuisine at L’Auberge was French, very classical, lots of butter, cream and boredom. An end has been put to all this. New Californian cuisine is the name of the game now. Dungeness crab and sea urchin arrived as amuse bouche, in a fine, salty seawater aspic. Cogley skilfully combines the foie gras with rhubarb, fennel, garlic, shallots and chili. After this there is Californian abalone on fava beans, with onion blossoms and melted lardo, wafer-thin strips of bacon. Cogley serves up the whole thing in the glittering mother-of-pearl of the abalone shells and on a bed of kelp, the frequently metrelong seaweed that grows directly off the coast in forests, flowing gently with the waves. “I want people to not only eat, to consume, but to develop a feel for the products again, for the wonderful things that grow here,“ says the chef. This includes respect for nature. “An abalone has to grow for four years before it reaches our plates!“ More of the same, Mr Cogley! We were very impressed! Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel, Carmel by the Sea, CA 93921, Monte Verde at Seventh, Tel. +1-831-624 8578,


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Aubergine continues 'Terroir' series by Elaine Hesser
For Off 68, February 10, 2012


Peninsula diners who thought they had to travel to the French Laundry or Manresa to dine at a top-level Zagat-rated restaurant need look no further than Aubergine, in the L'Auberge Carmel hotel.


In late 2010, Zagat announced that Aubergine was ranked fifth among San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants, sharing the rarified atmosphere with the aforementioned culinary shrines. Not one to rest on his laurels, Chef de Cuisine Justin Cogley (who spent four years working with Chef Charlie Trotter) is serving up a series of four-course dinners based on landscapes. He's calling the series "Terroir," which is a French word usually associated with winemaking. While conveying the precise definition is difficult (sometimes things really are lost in translation), the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate."


The words "complete natural environment" capture the essence of the series. Cogley is re-creating natural environments on the plate. At $75 per person, including the wine, it's a bit of a splurge, but well within reason for the experience and quality of food and service. The most recent dinner, "an introduction to the coast," featured an array of deftly prepared seafood with whimsical touches that teased diners' palates in unexpected ways, like icy Pacific waters splashing up on a beach.


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Spring / Summer Menu Preview 2012 by Irene Sax
Food Arts, January 2012


Justin Cogley
Aubergine, L’Auberge Carmel
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
“Because we have only 10 tables and offer just a four course prix-fixe and a tasting menu, we have extraordinary freedom when we think about ingredients. We can really focus on the food. For example, strawberries are usually associated with pastry, but last year we did a savory first course of lightly steamed fish with pickled strawberries.”

Monterey Bay abalone with pickled sea lettuce, daikon radish & hijiki. “Abalone arrive live from waters just 20 minutes away. Take one out of its shell, clean it off, and remove the muscle; pound it lightly. Cook it sous-vide for half an hour at 60 degrees Celsius [140˚F]; pan-roast in butter at pick-up. Sea lettuce is what comes along when the divers bring up the abalone. Clean it to make sure there are no creatures hiding in it, then pickle it with rice wine vinegar, water, and sugar. When it has a light pickle flavor, lay it on parchment paper to drain. Cut daikon into little bâtons and braise with soy sauce and kombu; add the hijiki at the end for a moment. The abalone is the highlight of the dish. We cover it with sea lettuce and lay the dark threads of hijiki and the daikon around it so it looks the way you’d see it in the ocean.”

Braised lamb shoulder & tongue with pickled elephant garlic. “We get the whole shoulders, bone them, clean them up, and rub them with spices—usually cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, and grains of paradise. Then we roll the meat back up tightly and cook it sous-vide for 12 hours. To serve, cut two slices from this beautiful roulade; garnish with lamb tongue, ruffled mustard greens, and big pieces of pickled elephant garlic. The tongue has been seared, cooked for a couple of hours, sliced very thin, and browned in a pan at the last minute. We’ll char a couple of scallions in a hot cast-iron skillet, add them to the plate, and at tableside spoon on a milky garlic sauce. This is made by blanching garlic five times—the last time in milk—then pureeing the milk and garlic together and reducing it in a double boiler so it doesn’t scorch. A little mirin is added at the end for sweetness.”

Steamed European turbot with olive paste, fennel & upland cress. “We get the turbot whole, and cut four nice fillets from it. These are slowly steamed and covered with a fennel cream that sets up when it touches the fish. For the cream, cook fennel stalks in a flavorful vegetable stock along with onions, Pernod, and fennel seeds; add heavy cream, which makes it a bright white; strain; reduce. To serve, place pieces of raw fennel around the fillets, each piece topped with a bright orange cluster of smoked wild steelhead roe; garnish with ruffles of cress and circles of intense black olive paste. This is started in the Gastrovac, a fancy machine that vacuum-cooks at very low temperatures to extract maximum flavor. We process the olive puree with natural gelatin and squid ink to make it black, then lay this out on a sheet pan to set. From this, we’ll punch out disks that pack an intense olive flavor for their size.”

Pastry chef Ron Mendoza
Strawberries & spruce meringues. “Macerate local strawberries with a little sugar and a splash of St. Germain elderflower liquor. Bake classic meringues seasoned with a few drops of essential spruce oil. Sometimes I make tons of little ones the size of a half dollar and other times bigger ones that I break apart to look like a snowball after it’s smashed. Stabilize golden passion fruit curd with a little agar-agar so it can be formed into different shapes, like a cylinder or a spiral. Put the curd on the plate and surround it with the elderflower-perfumed berries and a scattering of meringues. No two plates are ever the same, but they’re always beautiful.”


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Cooking up gourmet adventures across the West By April Orcutt

Special to the Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2012


Cooking classes are sprouting like shiitake mushrooms across the West, often in gorgeous locations. For travelers who want to plan their gourmet adventures, we've found restaurants, hotels, lodges, resorts and culinary academies where they can improve their home-chef skills with hands-on lessons, demonstrations or tutoring by noted chefs.


L'Auberge Carmel's monthly classes are taught by chefs in the kitchen of the hotel's Aubergine restaurant. The sweet and savory themes may cover puff pastry, French cakes, homemade marshmallows or soda-fountain treats, or Dungeness crab, raw fish, sake or umami, the newly discovered fifth-taste sense.




Aubergine's landscapes by Mike Hale
Monterey Herald, January 4, 2012


Our economy still sputters and coughs, and the days of high-end, pretentious dining may be behind us, but there is still a market for classy, dress-up, adult experiences with delicious, artfully crafted food.


With Club XIX's closure last year, the list of fine-dining places has really shrunk to three: Marinus at Bernardus Lodge, Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn and Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel.

Under wunderkind chef Justin Cogley, Aubergine in Carmel really stands out in my mind as a place to splurge and indulge, with the memories fresh in your mind weeks or months later. In 2011 the restaurant earned a No. 5 Zagat ranking throughout the San Francisco Bay Area region.

Aubergine's new monthly dinner series called Terroir allows diners a less expensive entry into this world created by Cogley and executive pastry chef Ron Mendoza. The series, inspired by landscapes, includes wine pairings and costs $75 per person.

December's dinner was titled "Forest and Fields," and we snagged two seats as an early Christmas present. Wow. It started with amuses of foie gras on flatbread served on a log with forest scents, followed by hay-smoked pickled quail eggs and a small shot of warm apple cider and bourbon. And it only got better from there. We ate squab cooked in smoked butter, with apple and strips of succulent lardo; porcini mushrooms with caramelized onion and black garlic; and venison with salsify, birch syrup and devils club root (a crunch component that looks like a twig). Dessert was a "painted landscape," with guanaja cremeux (a decadent chocolate cream), bits of torn chocolate cake and eucalyptus ice cream playing the moon and a sweet, dark orange gelee serving as the setting sun. Edible art, and visually stunning.

Jan. 24 brings "Pacific Coastlines." Call 624-8578 for reservations.




Dungeness Crab for the Holidays: Get Cracking!
MarketWatch's Anthony Lazarus reports, December 20, 2011


Seasonal Dungeness crab is a holiday favorite, especially along the Pacific Coast. Chef Justin Cogley, of Restaurant Aubergine in the hotel L'Auberge Carmel, shares three holiday recipes featuring Dungeness. MarketWatch's Anthony Lazarus reports.


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Restaurant Aubergine Carmel by Felix Hirsch

Restaurant Aubergine Carmel by Felix Hirsch

QLI, October 27, 2011


At times you are genuinely surprised by a meal. You walk in without any expectations and see an uninspiring room. However, once the food starts to appear, things start looking radically different. Aubergine in Carmel is such a restaurant.


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Aubergine is rated Fifth Best in San Francisco and the Bay Area by Zagat, September 2011


Carmel's Aubergine Earns Number Five Zagat Ranking, Beating Out Slanted Door, Chez Panisse By Mark C. Anderson, MC Weekly, September 20, 2011

Zagat San Francisco Bay Area 2012: Gary Danko is still tops and the city is full of bad tippers, Inside Scoop SF, September 20, 2011




Carmel and Monterey make their mark on fine dining

Carmel and Monterey make their mark on fine dining
by Michael Bauer

SF Chronicle, September 18, 2011


This 12-table restaurant in the L'Auberge Carmel hotel is now under chef de cuisine Justin Cogley, who arrived in January from Chicago, where he had been chef de cuisine at Charlie Trotter's and executive sous chef at Elysian hotel.


This is without a doubt Carmel's most upscale restaurant featuring a locally sourced menu. The four-course fixed-price dinner is $89; an additional $75 brings matching wines assembled from the hotel's 4,500-bottle cellar, with special emphasis on producers from Monterey, California and France.


There are choices in each menu category, with starters like herb-marinated sockeye salmon sprinkled with dill pollen and delicate herbs; Monterey Bay abalone with lobster lettuce sauce and braised romaine; and a land-and-sea interpretation of English peas, bone marrow and smoked trout roe; or Japanese hamachi with mustard greens, oysters and fried pig tails.


It's truly a memorable meal for that Carmel special occasion, but for a real extravaganza Cogley crafts an eight-course spontaneous menu for $125. For this, the menu lists single ingredients used to construct the plates, such as sea urchin, lardo, Wagyu beef, rhubarb, speculoos (a short-crust biscuit) and araguani (a dark chocolate). The sommelier wine pairings are a added $110.


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The picturesque land of plenty By Patty Burness

The picturesque land of plenty By Patty Burness
Northside San Francisco, September 2011


Dinner at Aubergine, the cozy 12-table restaurant in the hotel was memorable. Four luscious courses featured ingredients delivered by local farmers. The amuse-bouches were awesome, especially the English pea sponge cake with pea puree and pea shoots. We savored hamachi with sea beans, seawater, bonito jelly and uni; ocean trout with crispy skin; halibut with sea lettuce, oyster and pigtail. And the international wine selections were incredible. We ended the delicious evening with a strawberry cream cheese parfait.


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Aubergine Dream By Mark C. Anderson


Aubergine Dream By Mark C. Anderson
Monterey County Weekly, April 28, 2011


"An eye-catching question arrived on the top of a recent menu at Aubergine (624-8578), the transformational 10-table spot in Carmel’s L’Auberge.


“As chefs,” went the Chef Santi Santamaria quote, “we ask ourselves if there’s such a thing as culinary poetry.”


The answer appeared on 10 small plates of big possibility, precise miniature harmonies that bridged reality and fantasy by connecting other seemingly mutually exclusive domains – the simple and complex, the familiar and the mysterious, the calming and the energizing. Think microsquid the size of a finger tip accented by a delicate little swath of sea urchin and seawater yuzu, or Kusshi oyster with cucumber, pea shoots and smoked trout roe."


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Aubergine Pastry Chef Competes for Best Dessert in the World

Aubergine Pastry Chef Competes for Best Dessert in the World

By Mark C. Anderson
Monterey County Weekly, March 30, 2011


Here's something to chew on. There are quite a few restaurants in little Carmel, let alone California or the wider country. So when one of our own is one of only six chefs to earn the right to represent all of North and South America in Europe, you don't have to be a master statistician to understand that is bloody rare ability.

But such is the skill of Aubergine Executive Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza, who will be one of six semi-finalists from the Americas to compete in the C3 International Restaurants Desserts Competition in Paris, France a week from today, on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.



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             Forbes 5 Star

Monte Verde at Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, 93921
Tel: 831 624 8578

Reserve the Carmel Culinary Package at L'Auberge Carmel for the Full Experience

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