About me!

photoWelcome to the Central Coast Critic, aka Kathy Marcks Hardesty, on Facebook and WordPress! I’m a freelance food and wine columnist who has covered the amazing growth of the Central Coast restaurant and winery scene since early 1996. My lifelong career, however, began many years earlier when I started working in restaurants and bars in 1979. I would spend 12 years in the restaurant industry, six years front of the house followed by six years cooking professionally. I am also a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

Believe it or not, I left it all behind once I had the opportunity to start working for Wine Spectator magazine in San Francisco. I started out as the assistant to the tasting coordinator and soon became the editor for the restaurant award program, which I still describe as the greatest job of my life. During the seven years I worked there, I never missed a day of work, I loved my job. But that was working for someone else who called the shots. When I moved to the Central Coast in 1996, I finally realized my lifelong dream, of becoming a freelance writer. I have so many great stories from my 35 years in the business. Many were funny, some were sad, and there are a few poignant tales, but those were the milestones that made me who I am today. I’ll be building upon my biography regularly as my blog gains momentum, and sharing all of the highlights of my life in my biography as the Central Coast Critic.

34 comments for “About me!

  1. July 22, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Kathy, very happy to find your very nice site. I wanted to mention that your New Times reviews, among others, are showcased as links on my goslo.net “100 best restaurants in SLO county” pages.

    I the site together last year because it seemed not-that-easy to find reviews of some of our area’s best restaurants once the daily or weekly paper is out of date. Your reviews are always interesting and well-written and I’m happy to see that they will continue.

    • July 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      Todd, thank you so much for your kind words, it means so much to me! I’ll check out your webpage right away.

  2. July 24, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Nice site, Kathy. I’ll be back many times to do research for my books.

    • admin
      July 24, 2014 at 9:11 am

      Thanks, Barbara, appreciate it very much!

    • admin
      August 4, 2014 at 8:31 am

      Thanks very much, Barbara. Don’t hesitate to call on me anytime you have a question.

  3. Frank Mendoza
    July 26, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Hi Kathy, great site! You continue to cover the wonderful central coast food scene with great vitality. Thank you!
    Frank Mendoza

    • July 27, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Chef, what a wonderful surprise to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words, I would love to know where you are now.

  4. Ashley Hamilton
    September 2, 2014 at 4:34 am

    You are a real resource for wining and dining here on Central
    Coast and a great person to know! Thanks much for your educated information and flowing prose.

    • admin
      September 2, 2014 at 6:31 am

      Thanks so much, Ashley!

  5. Frank Bayliss
    February 20, 2015 at 7:05 am

    Kathy: I’m not sure if this is the is the proper place on your site but I couldn’t find another. We talked about wine tasting in the Willamette valley and you were going to give Carolyn and I a few tips about some wineries around Dundee/McMinnville.

    Thank you


  6. April 17, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Kathy – Love your website! I’m at Martian Ranch & Vineyard in Los Alamos, it would be great to hear from you: 805-344-1804. Cheers :)))

    • April 20, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks so much, Patti. I will definitely keep you in mind to make an appointment sometime soon!

  7. Ashley Hamilton
    April 20, 2015 at 5:12 pm


    What a valuable fount of information you are! I so appreciate your restaurant and wine reviews – and your wit and humor! Stay cool!

    • admin
      April 20, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks very much, Ashley, your kind comments are appreciated!

    • April 28, 2015 at 6:18 am

      Hi Hilary, are these wines now available locally in retail stores? It was a lovely afternoon tasting at the Dolphin Bay Resort. And the wines were quite impressive.

  8. rick sanders
    May 21, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Just found your site. Love your reviews.

  9. Susan Gonzales
    May 12, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Hi Kathy,

    We have a wine maker dinner for Chalome Vineyards on June 4th at Root 246.The owner would love to invite you to be his guest. Would you be interested?


    • May 12, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      Yes, I am interested and please tell them thank you for me. I will look into it and see it can work out for me. I’ll get back to you soon.

  10. Ann
    June 8, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Hi Kathy,
    My husband and I met you on Sunday at Stephen Ross winery. I’m glad we ran into you! You gave us some great suggestions at the winery, and now we’ll be able to turn to your site before our regular visits to the central coast.
    Many thanks!

    • admin
      June 8, 2016 at 10:43 am

      Thanks so much for the note, Ann. It was a pleasure to meet fellow Bay Area foodies. Reach out to me any time.

  11. Bill Cattaneo
    July 13, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Enjoyed your thoughts on Mee Heng Low. My folks were regular customers of the Gin family in the 1940s. Berkemeyer’s Market at 1023 Chorro Street prepared the smoked pork tenderloins for Mee Heng Low.

    • July 17, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      Thank you, Bill, for your comment on this. I always appreciate hearing from locals!

  12. Bill Cattaneo
    July 18, 2016 at 4:29 am

    Kathy – I believe Mee Heng Low was already open during the last years of World War II. My father, Bill Cattaneo Sr., worked for the United Meat Market at 714 Higuera Street until 1940 or 1941. He then signed on with Berkemeyer’s Market at 1023 Chorro Street. Both the United and Berkemeyer’s had wood-burning smoke houses. I strongly suspect, but cannot prove, that my father began smoking pork loins for Mee Heng Low when he was still employed at the United Meat Market for the Molinari family, and continued at Berkemeyer’s. I do remember with absolute clarity that we were treated like family friends when we had dinner at Mee Heng Low. We always began our dinner with smoke pork and thinly sliced pickled turnips, followed by fried rice and crispy fried noodles served with vegetables. My father emigrated from northern Italy to San Luis Obispo with his parents in the fall of 1920, when he was 12. His immigrant background led him to have unusually friendly relations with the Gin family at Mee Heng Low, and with the Japanese merchants on Lower Higuera Street before the start of World War II. That relationship was completely evident when we went to Mee Heng Low. Words cannot describe, Kathy, what downtown San Luis Obispo was really like before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In my then young memory, World War II brought an end to the small-village feeling that was the spirit of downtown San Luis Obispo. Time marches on. Marsha and I frequently dine at the Jade Palace here in Louisville, and we enjoy the Chinese cuisine, but it will not, and cannot, replace Mee Heng Low. Two different worlds in two different times. I will leave the strict historic accuracy of the above to the SLO History Center.

  13. Bill Cattaneo
    July 18, 2016 at 5:40 am

    Kathy – I just discovered major errors in the above Mee Heng Low comments. Please pull from your site. Bill

  14. Bill Cattaneo
    July 18, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Kathy – In the interest of historical accuracy, I want to correct errors in my previous comments to you. My father, Bill Cattaneo, worked for United Meat Market beyond 1941 – until 1942 or 1943. He began preparing smoked pork loins for Mee Heng Low, when he worked at Berkemeyer’s Market – not at the United Meat Market. Berkemeyer’s Market was well equipped for smoking meats, with one smoke house on the main street level, and one smoke house in the basement. Bill Cattaneo

  15. charlotte tallman
    October 17, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Hi Kathy,

    It was so wonderful to meet you at the Sans Liege wine pick-up party! I enjoyed hearing about what you do, and your website. It will be a valuable resource to this newcomer. I hope we can connect via email.

    Thanks so much,

    • admin
      October 17, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Great to meet a fellow writer, Charlotte. And welcome to the neighborhood! Please contact me at kathy@centralcoastcritic.com.

  16. James Van Osdell
    April 16, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    Please visit HARMONEY CAFE in Cambria. Magnificent Italian restaurant. I am from Montana , visiting Cambria, having spent a lot time in Italy and lived in DC and Charleston ,SC. This place in Cambria is good, very good. It needs some publicity to ignite it. Do folks on the central coast a favor and visit and review. You will find it delightful. Thanks , James

    • April 17, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      Hi James,
      Thanks so much for this great tip! I alway appreciate it when my fellow food lovers let me know about a place they like a lot. I will check into it. And please do keep coming back for more tips on my webpage!
      Regards, Kathy

  17. ashley
    April 18, 2017 at 7:28 am

    Cat, You’re wonderful!

    • admin
      April 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Thanks, friend! As are you!

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