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Excellent Taste
Food & Spirits

Excellent Taste

Each of us has our “happy place,” the go-to spot we love to visit because we can always count on it to make us happy. It could be a cottage by the sea, the Swiss Alps, a sea turtle-hatching beach in the Galapagos or… a much-loved bungalow at Miramar!

The happy place for Chef Jason Prendergast, Director of Culinary Experience for FIG and Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, is most certainly the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. That’s where Chef and his team source the freshest organic fruits and vegetables for FIG every week, and where Chef Jason samples and scrutinizes produce while visiting with his many farmer friends. It’s also the place where his face lights up as he engages in light-hearted banter, and that’s the tell. Going on a tour of the Market with Chef is an interesting, engaging–and joyous–experience.

“It’s all about relationships and community,” says Prendergast. “We collaborate with local growers and almost everything is sourced within 50 miles of FIG. They’re not just the farmers we work with, they’re our friends.” From twice-weekly visits to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market to a network of specialty foragers, organic farmers, ranchers and fishermen and -women, Chef Jason sources ingredients on the FIG menu and all hotel dining outlets, including banquets, locally, and creates a rustic yet refined cuisine that is a favorite of the local community and a coveted reservation for global guests. Trained in traditional French techniques, Prendergast, who hails from the Midwest, previously worked with green markets in Chicago. “There weren’t many farmer’s markets there at the time,” he says. “Here, it’s natural.”After all, we consider our fur babies extended family–and why would you want to leave a family member behind?

At FIG, Chef serves up clean, modern fare with bright, bold, exquisite flavors. FIG guests regularly enjoy hand-made pastas inspired by Chef’s Italian heritage, which included Sunday suppers prepared by his grandmothers. The Midwestern influence is also felt with large-portion, sharable dry-aged steaks; pickles fermented in-house and perogies. Locally sourced meat, seafood and poultry dishes, as well as fresh, sustainably-sourced fish, are interwoven throughout the FIG menus.

Chef Jason has cultivated deep and lasting relationships with neighboring farmers, which is evident as we stop to speak with Jimmy at Logan’s Garden, where they grow “great things that are hard to get,” says Chef. Or Harry’s Berries and Two Peas in a Pod, where the juicy, deep-red strawberries are impossibly seductive. Chef finds juicy Bing cherries and plump white peaches at Jay Scott Farm, lemony artichokes and peppery arugula at Tamai Family Farms, Oro Blanco grapefruit at Garcia Organic Farms. Stopping at JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch, Chef says, “These are some of the best avocados in the world, right here.”

“The Market is our laboratory,” says Prendergast. “If we get inspired here on Wednesday, we start experimenting and we can have a new dish on the menu by Thursday.” And nothing ever goes to waste. “We can always use everything–roots, stems, and leaves. Nothing is ugly, and everything takes on a second life in our kitchen.” At its heart, his cuisine is about high-level reinvention. Everything in the kitchen is recycled or composted, and sustainability is always a high priority in the kitchen.

“I’m in daily contact with local farmers to see what’s new or just ready to come out of the ground. The menu evolves every two to three weeks, based on fresh, flavorful ingredients that tell a unique story.” According to Chef, the farmers are the ones who do the hard work. “Our job is to not screw it up,” he says, modestly. “Simply treat the fruits and vegetables well, and we’re done.”

Book a Chef’s Tour of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, along with a very special private dinner here.

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