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Bluewater Grill Santa Barbara Names Manager, Local Exec Chef

Bluewater Grill Seafood Restaurants has named a general manager and local executive chef to lead Santa Barbara’s newest beachfront destination for fresh, sustainable seafood, monthly chef’s tastings, Central Coast wine pours and neighborhood happy hours.


Bluewater Grill Santa Barbara opens in mid-January directly on the beachfront in a rebuilt historic lighthouse structure previously occupied by the famous Castagnola Lobster House, 15 E. Cabrillo Blvd.

Chanel Ducharme, former chef de cuisine at the Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara, has assumed executive chef duties at Bluewater Grill Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara native and seafood and shellfish aficionado has a large culinary following along the Central Coast and is currently undergoing training with Bluewater Executive Chef Jason Mazur to master the Bluewater method of sustainable seafood preparation.

Meanwhile, Colin Lohenry, part of the team at the original Bluewater Grill in Newport Beach’s Cannery Village, will become Bluewater Grill Santa Barbara general manager.

The Newport Beach resident has been appointed by Bluewater co-founders Jim Ulcickas and Richard Staunton to bring the Bluewater brand of pristine, just-off-the-boat seafood and shellfish to the Central California Coast for the first time. Lohenry will move to Santa Barbara to lead the November opening.

“We are thrilled to build a culinary and management team that can introduce Santa Barbara to Bluewater’s 21-year tradition of hospitality and signature seafood and shellfish – much of caught locally off the California coast by our own fishing boat,” said Ulcickas, Bluewater co-founder and co-owner.

“At Bluewater, our mission isn’t just to serve the freshest fish, but to showcase the amazing culinary possibilities of seafood that is both sustainably harvested and innovatively prepared. Chanel and Colin have the experience and relationships within the local culinary and restaurant worlds to help us do that,” he said.

While at Hungry Cat Santa Barbara, Ducharme managed all back-of-house operations including scheduling, food ordering, banquets, menu development and front-of-house scheduling.

Prior to that, she led various parts of the operation at three popular San Francisco restaurants – Paragon Restaurant and Bar, Bluestem Brasserie and Florio’s – before working at McCormick & Kuletos Seafood in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square.

Ducharme shops weekly at various Santa Barbara’s farmers and fisherman’s markets for the freshest ingredients. She also makes her own pasta and has a special passion for just-caught sea urchin, oysters and other selfish, and will add her own signature uni to the Bluewater Santa Barbara menu.

“It’s a privilege to combine Bluewater’s seafood and shellfish with Central Coast produce, wines and other locally grown ingredients to introduce residents and visitors to the ultimate in farm-to-fork and sea-to-plate experiences,” she said.

Bluewater Grill Santa Barbara becomes the eighth Bluewater neighborhood restaurant, joining locations in Newport Beach, Redondo Beach, Temecula and Coronado, and Phoenix; and Bluewater Avalon on Catalina Island.

Bluewater Grill Carlsbad debuted in Carlsbad Village in September, making 2017 the first year during which Ulcickas and Staunton have opened two new Bluewater restaurants.

The former Castagnola Lobster House at the foot of Stearn’s Wharf is being rebuilt with an inside/outside second-story bar to take advantage of the building’s sunset and ocean views.

Offering a sophisticated local twist on Bluewater seven other locations, Bluewater Grill Santa Barbara will blend a decidedly upscale coastal casual theme with subtle references to the Bluewater founders’ ties to Santa Barbara.

Avid fishermen, Staunton and Ulcickas regularly fish the Channel Islands aboard Bluewater’s own Pilikia swordfish harpoon boat to humanely catch pristine-quality swordfish.

Bluewater Grill Santa Barbara will serve lunch, dinner and small plates daily on two floors of the newly constructed building, an oyster bar, dining counter overlooking an open kitchen and an upstairs dining patio and bar offering beach views, local Santa Barbara County wine flights and locally caught seafood purchased directly from local commercial fisherman.

The new restaurant will print new lunch and dinner menus regularly to be able showcase the freshest seafood and shellfish, and offers a separate kid’s menu certified by the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program and a popular weekday small plates menu of $4, $6 and $8 drink and appetizer specials.

Another expected highlight will be a year-long calendar of seasonal seafood specials and monthly Chef’s Tasting events which pair seafood and shellfish with hand-selected wines, sakes or specialty draught beers. Hosted the second Tuesday of every month, the events have become a popular monthly diversion for local seafood aficionados and Bluewater Grill’s large fan base.

Since opening on Newport’s Cannery Village waterfront in 1996, Bluewater Grill has developed a reputation for not only serving the absolutely freshest seafood but leading the industry in sustainable fishing and farming practices.

According the Ulcickas, Bluewater Grill was one of the first California or Arizona seafood restaurants to apply a full-disclosure menu philosophy and publish a Fish Origins Chart showing the specific farmed or wild source of every item on the menu. The prolific restaurateur has shared his marine stewardship secrets at the International Boston Seafood Show and has been featured on the cover of SeaFood Business, the nation’s leading trade publication for seafood restaurants and other buyers.

To date, more than 90 percent of the seafood offerings at Bluewater restaurants are sustainably caught or farmed – among the highest of any seafood restaurant in California.

To be deemed sustainable, the seafood or shellfish must be certified by the Aquarium of the Pacific Seafood for the Future program; be designated a “Best or Good Alternative Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program; or adhere to strict Marine Stewardship Council best-practice standards for sustainable harvesting.

Bluewater founders also operate the fishing vessel, Pilikia, which provides Bluewater customers with the freshest, sustainably-caught seafood.

Fishing off the coast of Avalon, Captain Sean Burke targets only mature fish without the use of nets or long lines, harpooning the freshest most humanely harvested local swordfish.

For menus, locations and operating hours for the seven other Bluewater restaurants in Southern California and Arizona, go to www.bluewatergrill.com.

— Bob Ochsner for Bluewater Grill Santa Barbara.


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