The executive chef position at T. Cook's at the Royal Palms felt like a revolving door for a while there. Long-timer Lee Hillson left for The Phoenician last August, replaced by Todd Sicolo (formerly at the Arizona Biltmore) in October, who turned around and left himself just four months later -- but not before putting a new T. Cook's menu in place.
But the instability is soon to be ancient history, although we can expect a whole lotta shaking going on this summer. The good news is that the resort recently hired away Paul McCabe from L'Auberge Del Mar, and he's been ensconced in T. Cook's kitchen for about a week now. Meanwhile, the resort soon will begin a three-month renovation of T. Cook's with a makeover unveiling in September. Here's what will be happening this summer.
While T. Cook's and its famously cozy bar undergo renovation this summer, McCabe will operate out of Cervantes Bistro, a pop-up of sorts on the property, which features an extensive collection of original art.
The bistro (located in a separate building to the east of T. Cook's) will offer light fare through the summer, keeping much of Sicolo's menu in place for continuity. But the interesting part surely will be McCabe's Wednesday night specials, dishes he'll consider putting on his fall menu if customers give them the thumbs-up. McCabe says, "I'm looking forward to interacting with long-term guests and Valley residents to embrace the future together."
McCabe -- a Sedona native who served as executive chef at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona and at L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills before his eight-year stint in Del Mar -- brings his interest in local, seasonal ingredients to the table. He's already establishing relationships with local farmers and food artisans as he plans his new fall menu, which his PR team promises will reflect his "simple, pure and accurate" culinary style. He favors unfussy food, which falls in line with T. Cook's long-held Mediterranean premise.
Just so you know, McCabe has cooked at the Beard House four times in addition to receiving a "Rising Star" award from the Beard Foundation.
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The resort has hired Bar Napkin Productions to refresh the look at T. Cook's, which will feature a softer palette of desert colors. The look will still be rustic (wooden tables, iron chandeliers) but a bit more modern, offering up even more of the romantic nooks and crannies for which the restaurant is famous. Meanwhile, we can expect an expanded bar as well as a wine and tequila room.
We'll let you know about the new menu when McCabe unveils it in September to coincide with the brand new T. Cook's dining room.
Editor's Note: After publication, T. Cook's marketing department called to correct their press release. Turns out, McCabe worked at L'Auberge Del Mar for eight years but that wasn't his most recent gig, which was at La Valencia in the La Jolla Hotel.