February 16, 2016 – Carmel Valley’s landmark Wills Fargo restaurant is set to reopen in March with a new chef and a refreshed menu. Chef Greg Karjala, formerly of Sticks at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, started his new gig on Monday and is settling in by reaching out to local purveyors and planning a new menu with owner Hunter Lowder of Holman Ranch. “Chef Greg has a great personality and we wanted someone who is committed to being here for the long haul and building up Wills Fargo,” Lowder said.
The 28-year-old chef is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in Campbell and has been cooking for 12 years. Before Sticks, he worked under chef Tim Wood at Carmel Valley Ranch, where developed a style he describes as seasonal California cuisine.”Working with Tim was the first time I got a very good understanding of seasonal produce and meats and fish,” says Karjala. “I like to take international dishes and adapt them using seasonal local ingredients.”
According to Lowder, chef Greg is a good fit for Wills Fargo because, “He knows how to take advantage of the great seasonal products we are so lucky have here.”
The new menu they are developing will not be an about-face from the steakhouse fare the circa 1927 restaurant is known for. “We are committed to preserving the classic Wills Fargo cuisine and the building, so locals are comfortable here,” she adds. “But it’s 2016! We want to expand the variety and attract new customers and visitors, to make sure we’re going to be here for another 50 years.”
Lowder also confirmed that the name “Wills Fargo” will remain in place, even through they are considering updating the descriptor “Steakhouse + Bar” to something more in line with the soon-to-be determined new menu. Perhaps, bistro or wine bar? Or returning to the original Dining House + Saloon moniker?
The restaurant has been closed since the first of the year, when long-time executive chef Jerome Viel left to run the Carmel Valley Market. The break has allowed owners to hold staff training, spruce up the restaurant and install new ADA compliant restrooms.