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Cook carries on family's restaurateur tradition

New executive chef for Five Crowns, SideDoor started at Five Crowns under the departing chef's guidance.

February 18, 2011|By Sarah Peters, sarah.peters@latimes.com
  • Chef Ryan O'Melveny Wilson.
Chef Ryan O'Melveny Wilson. (Courtesy Susan…)

Editor's note: This corrects the relationship between Ryan O'Melveny Wilson and Richard N. Frank.

After 26 years behind the stove, award-winning Five Crowns and SideDoor Executive Chef Dennis Brask has handed over his spatula to a new generation.

The new executive chef at the neighboring establishments in Corona del Mar is Ryan O'Melveny Wilson, 30, the grandson of Richard N. Frank, who opened Five Crowns in 1965.

Brask, 60, retired so he could spend more time with his family.

In a Friday interview with the Daily Pilot, Brask described Wilson as possessing an "amazing aptitude and penchant for business" and said that he was the "best thing that ever happened to the company."

Which is not to say that Brask has not made his own contributions to establishing the Five Crown's name among the finest restaurants in Orange County. Last year, he was named 2009-10 Chef of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers.

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"He is a very talented, old-school chef," Wilson said. "He is a master of a lot of techniques, which have been lost."

Brask's knowledge of sausage and pâté is "exceptional," Wilson added.

Wilson's own training and background began under Brask's tutelage. After graduating from Pomona College, Wilson spent six months at Five Crowns as a pantry chef and prep cook.

"He gave me great guidance about how to perform in the kitchen and how to approach a long, stressful day," Wilson said.

Wilson went on to sharpen his culinary skills at La Toque in Napa Valley and Quince in San Francisco.

He later became executive chef at Tam O'Shanter in Los Angeles, which is part of Lawry's Restaurants, owner of Five Crowns, before being named culinary development chef and eventually corporate executive chef for Lawry's.

Wilson's appointment as executive chef will begin a new era for Five Crowns.

In addition to a new menu that incorporates produce from local growers and ranchers, organic and seasonal items and specials changing weekly, the restaurant's interior will be remodeled next month, he said.

The lighting system will be improved to play up outdoor ambient lighting, and new carpeting and hardwood flooring. New paint, chairs and upholstery, linens and place settings will be added.

"I'm very excited to be carrying on in family heritage for the next generation," Wilson said.

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