Ian Farmer brought me down to the lower field of the expansive farm which he manages, loves and lives on with his wife Ruth and young son Eliot. It was early November, the sun was starting to set and the cold air started to blow over the hill from the coast. The various experimental herbs and flowers were crackling and frail; well past their season now. A few of the last surviving fennel varieties wafted a scent of faint licorice as I touched the fronds. The vast number of oregano and marjoram plants emitted the aromatic memory of my first time ever being in an Italian pizza kitchen. These smells were reminiscent of first love and imbedded culinary experiences.


Vintage Organics Farm

The farm, Vintage Organics, owned by Lisen Bonnier is located less than 20 miles from Luna Red and on a picturesque hillside of Los Osos Valley Road. As I drove up earlier that afternoon, several dozen lamb came up to the fence to greet me as a newcomer to their home. The wild turkeys were attempting to take flight into their protective eucalyptus tree for the night and an overgrown pomegranate tree was hiding one of the many small houses on the property. With over 200 acres of animals, both wild and domesticated, fruit trees, live oaks and an outdoor lab of flowers and herbs, Vintage Organics is a perfect example of central coast farming at its best. From a sustainable solar power program to humane animal husbandry and butchery, Ian Farmer is the true farmer.


Vintage Organics Lamb Roast for a November Harvest Dinner

My relationship with Ian began when I heard of a local lamb farmer selling to restaurants and as part of Luna Red’s procuring ethics, this was a very exciting discovery. After three short years, our relationship has blossomed into more than just lamb. Herbs, butternut squash, pears, acorns from live oaks and the pigs that feed on them have become staples in the kitchen. Through the years we’ve had many discussions of butchery, culinary philosophy as well as built a personal connection from our like-minded farm-to-fork beliefs. By cooking to connect, I have created a friendship with Ian and his wife Ruth. As we reap and sow our relationship, the partnership will blossom and bring forward a bountiful friendship of a farmer and chef.

— Chef Shaun Behrens

To learn more about Vintage Organics you can visit their Facebook page.  To contact Ian Farmer email or call 805-801-1215.

Grassy Bar Oyster Co.

It’s another cool, overcast morning as I drive to the Morro Bay harbor to pick up my recent order from Grassy Bar Oyster Co. Standing on the dock waiting for the ship to pull in with a haul of freshly harvested mollusks, I catch myself daydreaming about living a life out on the ocean. This is a world I don’t know, but I could definitely live in. The intense brine of the sea and air are intoxicating and I take it in with long, deep breaths.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.41.23 AMCharles, son of the founder of Grassy Bar, finally docks, ties off the boat and brings me my order of 500 freshly caught oysters. I’ve grown quite fond of the talks Charles and I share. What started as a professional courtesy has evolved into a synergistic relationship.

Grassy Bar Oyster Co. is a very small, family operated business. Charles and his father, George, are the two men behind the helm. It’s local, family-run businesses like theirs that I care deeply about what happens to them and their crop. I used to order through a supplier that would buy the oysters from Grassy Bar, transport them down to LA, and then deliver them to the restaurant in San Luis Obispo. I found tat wasteful, so I cut out the middleman and went straight to the source.

One of the things I’ve learned in my conversations with Charles about growing oysters is that you get what you get. There isn’t the same control that farmers have over their crops. They are literally at the mercy of the sea. Grassy Bar, however, takes a scientific approach in the care and growth of the oysters. They are constantly testing the water, monitoring weather patterns, and experimenting with growing new mollusks in the bay that are not currently available locally. The terrior of these oysters is strong, briny, full of minerality, and intensely aromatic. They are distinct to the Central Coast and cannot be replicated anywhere else in the
world.Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.41.43 AM

My duty as a chef is to honor and highlight these oysters, and the Grassy Bar Company. In my profession I’m constantly fighting the conveniences of the modern world. Everything has become pre-packaged, inhuman and distant. Sure it would be easier to make a few clicks on the computer, but there is a satisfaction when you look a man in the eye and share words on a dock as you pick up your order. My relationship with Grassy Bar has taught me just how connected we all are and that I should fight to protect and support that through my actions as a chef.

Every time I bring a fresh haul into the restaurant it’s an incredible teaching moment for my staff, especially for the crew that come from back east and haven’t been exposed to fresh seafood. It promotes enthusiasm, and I can never get enough of the look on their faces when the crack one open or find a live crab crawling around the basket. And let me tell you, nothing beats the relaxing, fresh, salty aroma that fills my car on the trip back to Luna Red. — Chef Shaun

Local Foraging on the Central Coast of California

It’s an early, foggy morning in Baywood Park-Los Osos and I’m winding my way through a massive forest of overgrown wild fennel to get to the Morro Bay Inlet and forage for sea asparagus, a wild edible sustainable succulent rich in sea salt and protein.


The air is heavy with the scent of licorice and wild summer blackberries. There is something so refreshing and invigorating about being out here with those aromas and the saltiness in the air. Following the path to my sea prize is tranquil and naturally caffeinating.

It’s a rare and beautiful thing when a chef is able to go out and forage for his or her own ingredients. It’s hard sometimes to get motivated to go out early in the morning, but I’m able to forage about three times a week and I have different areas I pick from so the plants can recover and regrow.

We have such an abundance of incredible producers and wild greens on the Central Coast, there is no excuse to not take advantage of them. With Luna Red’s most recent seasonal menu change, I decided to make a more deliberate push to forage and find farms for our ever changing locally driven menu. We made a move to reduce our use of lamb on the menu so I can now buy all of our lamb from Vintage Organics, a local farmer on the west side of San Luis Obispo, our oysters come from Grassy Bar Oyster Co. in Morro Bay, our chevré comes from Stepladder Creamery in Cambria and we source all of our eggs from the Cal Poly Agriculture Department. It is also a huge help that our farm liaison, Matt Kubat, fosters strong relationships with our local farmers and does a great job of getting the fruits and vegetables we need on a daily basis.
IMG_0862With Luna Red making more changes and taking more steps to be as locally driven as possible, I’m never content with it being enough. I’m coming up with new plans to make Luna Red even more sustainable and environmentally responsible. Someday I would love to have our own organic farm that supplies all the restaurants, and I would even love to see all of our glass and serve ware be created by local potters and artisans.

I see myself, and my position as a chef, as a role that requires a great deal of ethical responsibility. I owe this level of quality to the people I feed, the environment that I need to protect and the local economy that I can help to strengthen. Every morning I come into the restaurant after my early morning forage runs, I especially feel this, the passion to be better than I was yesterday, to work harder and take even more responsibility in my role as a chef on the Central Coast of California.


As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a cook. There are pictures in my family photo albums that show me as a kid dressed up in the white apron and chef’s toque while holding a whisk ready to beat some eggs for homemade cookies. Then there are the memories of my sister and me playing “restaurant” for our family and guests during gatherings and get-togethers in which she would play the waitress and get what everyone in the living room wanted to order and I would “cook” them their meals. Everyone would always get the same thing– probably spaghetti or chicken and mashed potatoes– not because it’s what they wanted but because it was the only thing offered.

I spent each summer visiting my grandparents’ farm in Idaho. Over 90 acres of land that flourished with rows of corn, fields of fluffy alfalfa, and ranch animals that were either sold off or nurtured for our needs. They had everything they needed. They were sustainable.

One of the deals of our time at the farm was that you had to work. Whether it was irrigating the cornfields or feeding the animals or baling hay, it was hard labor. As each day began, my grandfather would be up and back inside for breakfast before all of us awoke. He was a true cowboy in my eyes, but for the life of me I just couldn’t get up that early. So I decided that my contribution was going to be helping my grandmother in the kitchen. This began my love affair with home cooking.

We would spend our days gathering eggs from the chicken coop, harvesting the ripest vegetables from the garden, and sometimes milking the Jersey cow Emma. From cooking three meals a day to making pies to canning tomatoes and pickling cucumbers for the winter, food was all around me, and I became addicted. She taught me the ethics of her kitchen by using everything that we gathered. What we couldn’t eat was preserved in some fashion or became compost or chicken feed.

Summers came and went. My visits to the farm became less and less frequent, and I started my professional cooking career. Since then my grandmother’s kitchen has always been a part of my love of cooking and my drive towards sustainability. To this day I use many of my grandmother’s recipes in my cooking, never wavering from the time those recipes were written. Becoming a localvore, cooking from scratch and feeding people responsibly have become my mantras.

Over the past 20 or so years, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best chefs in the world and the question always comes up: “Who is the biggest influence in your cooking?” Her name is Junita Goldston. She is my grandmother, and she has been my influence in love, food and family.

Her kitchen will always be my kitchen and every time I cook, I’m cooking by her side.