A culinary legend in Monterey County has left Bernardus Lodge and Spa. Chef Cal Stamenov, who opened the kitchen at Bernardus in 1999 with the lodge's founder Bernardus Pon, has moved on after 22 years mastering the acclaimed kitchen at the Carmel Valley destination.
Stamenov had a reputation for focusing intensively on fresh, local ingredients, but also perfecting classic cooking methods. As Mary Duan wrote in a 2016 review of the restaurant Lucia, "I’ve eaten Thomas Keller’s fried chicken too, and Chef Keller, when it comes to fried chicken, you are no Cal Stamenov."
The details of Stamenov's departure, which was originally reported in the food magazine Edible Monterey Bay, were not clear and Bernardus staff declined to answer specific questions and when and why his employment ended. Stamenov did not respond to messages, and it's not clear what he's doing next.
In an emailed statement, Sean Damery, regional vice president at Bernardus, said “It’s hard to sum up the entirety of Chef Cal’s contributions to Bernardus Lodge & Spa, our Peninsula and the industry over the last 22 years. On behalf of our owners and the entire Bernardus team, we hope the community will respectfully join us in honoring his incredible legacy. We are excited to see what he does next."
Some things changed at Bernardus during Stamenov's tenure there, including a 2015 rebrand of the restaurant (most recently Marinus, before it was Lucia). 2015 was the year Pon sold the resort, which still bears his name; Pon died in 2019.
In his years helming the kitchen, Stamenov helped make Bernardus into an internationally acclaimed culinary destination. He regularly foraged ingredients from his own Carmel Valley backyard, which includes two acres of organic produce; three bee boxes with wild and domestic honeybees; more than 150 fruit trees; and a range of chickens—Plymouth, Barred Rock, Rhode Island, Speckled Sussex and Ameraucana—whose eggs would appear on the menu, according to an official Bernardus bio.
It was not uncommon for years-long friendships with mushroom hunters, fishermen and other local producers to yield seasonal ingredients, according to Bernardus—a basket of chanterelles or a delivery of fresh-caught Monterey Bay spot prawns might just show up.
A Bernardus spokesperson says a search for his replacement will be underway soon, and "at this point the kitchen is staffed nicely and can certainly handle service."