Ever since proprietor Debbie Thomas first opened Thomas Hill Organics (THO) in Paso Robles in 2009, we’ve published many reviews over those years about their creative seasonal cuisine. And indeed, THO, has gone through a few chefs over the past eight-years (like most restaurants), most notably Chef Julie Simon who attracted leagues of foodies in their earliest years. Several chefs came after Simon, but some local people have told us they never realized she left (obviously, they don’t share our passion for local restaurants), and word is out she’s leaving this area this fall. But that’s old news, read on for the latest.
Very recently, upon receiving a press release from Parker Sanpei PR that there was a new chef at THO, I was immediately intrigued by some important facts. The notification said: “A veteran of the California culinary scene, Chef Kurt Metzger established himself with his acclaimed Kitchen 4140, and The Spotted Cow Catering & Pop-Up Dinner Co. Both are based in San Diego where Metzger’s name became synonymous with bringing the most out of simple, fresh ingredients to create memorable dining experiences. His braised short ribs with smoked, crispy polenta were included in the Food Network’s ‘The Best Thing I Ever Ate,’ and will be one of the many items coming out of the wood-fired ovens at THO.”
Since uber talented chefs are far and few between, we are always a bit skeptical when trying out a new chef’s cuisine. And with nearly four decades of experience in seeking out the finest restaurants where ever we travel, North America and Europe, we know true talent when we find it. That’s why we were immediately enamored with Metzger over our first dinner there. He has definitely taken the cuisine up several notches, making it easy to see how he came to win such an amazing award as “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” from the Food Network.
Metzger has long been a dedicated fan of California wine country, and he told us at the table during our dinner, “I’ve had a dream of becoming a chef in wine country, and this opportunity to work with Debbie Thomas was a once in a lifetime offer.” We were pleased to hear that, it affirms his commitment to the region which means he’s more likely to stay here. And who wouldn’t want to live the great life we locals do here on the Central Coast, our fabulous piece of paradise.
We called on restaurateur Debbie Thomas because we had to ask: how did you find this great chef? She laughed and said, “It was almost too good to be true. I posted an ad on Craig’s List in SLO and thought it would be a good idea to place one outside of the area in San Francisco, and Kurt answered the ad.” He said he could oversee both restaurants, and considering his experience in owning a restaurant and catering, she gave him the opportunity. Thomas told me she was able to enjoy her first vacation in two years now that she has Metzger heading the restaurants. She traveled to France, and that’s a very good sign this is going to work out very well for them, and for us, their longtime fans.
The new executive chef will oversee both the original Paso Robles and the new San Luis Obispo locations. His creative team includes Chef de Cuisine Bennett Haas in Paso Robles, and his Sous Chef Dimitri Cotler in SLO, plus the lead catering chef, Sam Chesebro. They are open daily for lunch and dinner, with Sunday brunch, but Thomas said they are still working out their menus and hours. Paso Robles fans will be happy to hear, she wants Metzger to keep longtime local favorites like the lentil tacos on the menu there.
Notably, Debbie Thomas and her team have always remained devoted to organic local foods, be it produce, fruit, red meats, or seafood, and they support the local farms, as well as bakers and other artisan food purveyors. To learn more about THO locations, hours, and read the menus, visit www.thomashillorganics.com.
Now, mostly importantly, take a look of these incredibly appealing dishes we tried for our first dinner with Chef Kurt Metzger in the kitchen at THO! We started with a scallop crudo with nectarines, cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, pea sprouts, radish, and avocado, an amazingly complex textural and flavorful combination of fresh produce and seafood.
Yet next we would have the seared scallops with French black lentils, cauliflower puree, and a flat leaf parsley salad with watermelon radish, a sublime dish that was one of the best we’ve had.
We absolutely adored the fresh pappardelle with Chef Kurt’s beautifully smoked chunks of wild salmon (not too smokey to overpower the delicate fresh pasta made just before service) with shaved ribbons of zucchini, crunchy bites of sugar snap peas, capers, and pea sprouts.
If these dishes appear generous in size, believe us, they were. Yet there was no doubt about the quality of fine ingredients in each dish we savored. We chose the TH (Terry Hoage) Estates Decroux Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, and it was perfect with each of the varied dishes we tried, it’s that versatile. This was our first taste of a second label by The Hoage Estate, and it was excellent.
The Painted Hills (from a Central Oregon ranch) ribeye steak was perfectly medium-rare with skin on crispy fries, an avocado cream, and lightly dressed arugula salad with grilled cherry tomatoes.
We had to take half of the steak home, by that time we were getting full, yet funny how it is you can always find a corner of your stomach that will hold chocolate!
Upon the first bite of the cake we asked our server Ryan which chocolate the chef used, although we were pretty sure which one it was. He gladly ran back to the kitchen to ask, and sure enough we were correct. Valrhona French dark chocolate, our longtime favorite. Get to Thomas Hill Organics, be it date night, a celebration got just a Wednesday evening when you want a special meal. Like us, you’ll be happy to discover what we consider the best new restaurant in San Luis Obispo. You can thank us later.