The Art of Dining

Posted online: November 2016


By L.D. Porter

Mid-century modern design impresario Steve Hermann has high hopes for his newly minted downtown Santa Barbara restaurant, SOMERSET. “We want to do the best restaurant anywhere,” he says, “and we want it to win design awards and food awards against the best of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Paris—really put Santa Barbara on a world stage in that capacity.”

Hermann is accustomed to setting steep goals for himself. He’s already garnered an impressive foodie track record based on his first restaurant, SO·PA, located in the stylish L’Horizon Resort & Spa—a mid-century architectural gem in Palm Springs he lovingly refurbished to aesthetic acclaim.

sb-winter16-taste-00Hermann’s design for Somerset is a departure from the minimalist ethos he’s known for. “I realized that I don’t really love modern restaurants,” he admits. “I don’t like it when they’re too stark.” Hence the comfy Chesterfield sofa in the dining room and the deeply tufted booths in the club room. And Hermann spared no expense on the quality of the appointments—unusual for a commercial space—admitting that the “fit and finish” of Somerset resembles that of his residential projects, which have to be “beyond perfect.”

The luxe quality of the dining space cries out for a star chef, and Hermann spent a year persuading the talented Lauren Herman, chef de cuisine at his favorite L.A. restaurant, A.O.C., to move to Santa Barbara and helm the restaurant’s state-of-the-art kitchen. “Somerset represents the pinnacle of my many years of culinary exploration,” says Herman, who focuses on “farm-driven California cuisine with light French and Mediterranean influences.” Joining Herman in the kitchen is her wife, pastry chef/ sous chef Christina Olufson.

Given the huge effort and attention to detail Hermann has lavished on the restaurant, Somerset will likely fulfill his vision of “a place people are coming to for the next 50 years.”

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