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HIRE LEARNING: Olivier Bioteau

Farmhouse Cafe chef-owner joins A.R. Valentien

By Troy Johnson

One of the city’s top restaurants just got significantly better. The Lodge at Torrey Pines’ signature restaurant, A.R. Valentien, already has a gold-standard rep under tip-to-tail chef Jeff Jackson and chef de cuisine Kelli Crosson. Now Olivier Bioteau has joined the team.

Bioteau was the chef-owner of one of San Diego’s most beloved French bistros, Farmhouse Café. For years, people had begged him to move to a larger space, since getting a table was an exercise in patience and off-hour craftiness. Earlier this year, he seemed to be doing just that—closing the bistro, taking a few months off to travel, and promising to open a bigger Farmhouse Café when he returned.

Now he’s back. Instead of opening a newer, bigger Farmhouse, he’s taken a job as chef tournant for A.R. Valentien. For Bioteau, it was about finding balance in life as a chef. Running your own restaurant can significantly beat the tar out of you. It takes you away from cooking. The financials to start anew are intimidating. He explains:

Why The Lodge?

It’s rare to get an opportunity to cook there. It’s a privilege and an honor to work with Jeff Jackson. He’s an old-school French chef. He’s awesome. He asked me, ‘What happens if someone gives you a half million dollars to open up your own place?’ And I said, ‘No, when I make a decision, I make a decision. I’m not going to bounce around. I’m going to be here for a while.’

What happened to the plans of opening a bigger Farmhouse?

While we were traveling, we had a broker looking for new places. We had a spot in North County, but it was over $5 a square foot and you had to build a restaurant from the ground up. We don’t have the kind of financial backing. Same thing with a spot in Little Italy. We also put in an offer at the restaurant at Inn at the Park in Hillcrest, but never heard back.

Was there an element of burnout owning your own place?

The restaurant business is tough. For a small place like Farmhouse, it was just me and my wife. We did everything ourselves. We did it the hard way. I wasn’t doing much cooking anymore. I was doing paperwork and dealing with employees and putting out fires. I was beat up. I had to go see a doctor. I’ve had my own cooking classes, I’ve been on TV, I’ve had my own restaurant. The Farmhouse was an amazing experience. I made some great friends. But right now I don’t want any of that. I’m just trying to find the best balance in my life and have fun cooking again.

So is Farmhouse done-done?

We haven’t given up. But I’m going to be at The Lodge for a good while.

The decision officially makes The Lodge a talent monopoly. Time to make a reservation.

In the meantime, Bioteau has created a special Bastille Day menu for The Patio on Goldfinch. Two seatings, July 14 and 15. Buy your tickets here.

Chef Olivier Bioteau

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