The Bear and Star, one of the Central Coast’s most ardent attempts at true ranch-to-table cuisine, will be closing at the end of the year. That’s according to Ashley Parker Snider, daughter of the late Fess Parker, whose family owns the Los Olivos hotel that houses the restaurant as well as the ranch that provided the meat, produce, and many other supplies for the kitchen.
“The concept was brilliant, and delicious, but the last two-and-a-half years proved to us that it wasn’t sustainable in such a small market,” she said in an email on Tuesday.
The Bear and Star opened in May 2017, and frequently hosted famous guest chefs from around California in its kitchen. The menu blended Texas barbecue with California style, relying on wagyu beef from the family ranch, raised by Katie Parker McDonald, Fess Parker’s eldest granddaughter.
Chef John Cox, whom the Parkers lured down from the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, will turn his focus to Cultura, his mezcal bar in Carmel, and Cult Taco, a restaurant in Monterey. “It’s been an amazing opportunity to work with the Parker family on this once-in-a-lifetime project,” said Cox. “Being part of the Santa Barbara restaurant community has been an incredible experience.”
The project launched with the long-term idea of using the model to support the Parker family’s plans for a 60-room luxury resort in Santa Barbara, said Cox. But that property has now been leased. “Without having additional outlets for the beef and other ranch products, the Bear and Star wouldn’t be able to sustain the overhead costs on its own,” said Cox.
Despite the closure, Cox learned a lot. “The last three years have taught me a ton about what real farm-to-table means,” he explained. “There were many successes and countless difficult lessons along the way. The bottom line is that the majority of consumers just aren’t ready to pay the price required to produce food locally. It’s certainly a story I want to tell, and I may be taking some time off to work on a book that explores the story and issues in more depth.”
He estimated that the true cost of a ranch-to-table burger would be $30. “That just doesn’t work for most people,” he explained.
The Parker family is currently working to fill the space inside the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn.