Chefs and Restaurants on the Central Coast (1970 to 2006)
The Rizzo Family lived at the San Luis Bay Inn when they moved to the Central Coast to open the Café Roma.
Bill Hoppe worked at the Golden Tee Inn in the late 1970s with the restaurant that bore the same name. In the 1990s he opened Windows on the Water in Morro Bay and a second restaurant known as Hoppes in Morro Bay. Both were located on the Embarcadero. Bill moved Hoppes to Cayucos around 2001. It was located in an historic building and garden on Ocean Avenue until his death.
1993: King Ventures bought the Inn at Morro Bay. Larry hired chef Laurent Grangien who had decided to move to the Central Coast from Los Angeles to raise his family. He had come to Los Angeles in the late 1980s to work as an executive chef. Laurent worked at the Inn at Morro Bay for two years and then asked friends to invest in his own restaurant, Bistro Laurent, which he opened in Paso Robles in 1996.
Chef Eric Koberl founded Koberl at Blue around 2005. Eric previously worked for Martin Weyrick, to build the Carlton Hotel in Atascadero. Eric left three months before the Carlton Hotel opened to found his own restaurant in San Luis Obispo.
Buona Tavola was founded by Antiono Varia during this time with two locations in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. Antonio is from Piedmont region in Italy and is also well known for his handcrafted Italian sausage company, Alle-Pia.
Leonard Cohen operated the Old Port Inn in Avila and then founded Ciopinot in San Luis Obispo. Both are known for their seafood.
At the time, most restaurants were serving wines from Napa rather than local wines. When Max Goldman bought York Mountain, replaced and replanted the vineyards, and started making his own wines, they were marketed to local restaurants. Max was the first to market York Mountain Wines locally in a big way.
Maison Deutz, HMR and the Niven family and Edna Valley Winery began to make quality wine, which was carried locally. Other local wines on menus included Gary Eberle’s label at Estrella River Valley and Talley Vineyards produced by Don, Rosemary, and Brian Talley.
A maven in art of hospitality, Larry Shupnick is a leader in hotel management and ownership. Since the 1970s, he has been a tireless promoter of local food and wines in San Luis Obispo County, investing in new restaurants and wineries, introducing local winemakers to the finest winery owners and chefs in the world; his friendships, collaborations, and networks raised the quality of local wines and cuisine to new heights. He was the co-founder of the KCBX Wine Classic and founder of the San Luis Bay Food and Wine Society and the local chapter of Confrérie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs. He was the 2018 recipient of the Robert Mondavi Food and Wine Award.
Contributions to San Luis Obispo County Wine History
- The man who brought fine cuisine and the KCBX Wine Classic to the Central Coast.
- Brought new meaning to the word bon vivant on the Central Coast – a man of great energy, deep and lasting friendships, lover of fine food, wine and education
- Role model for developing ideas and implementing them with success
- Tireless promoter of local food and wines in San Luis Obispo County
- Founder of the San Luis Bay Food and Wine Society in 1976
- Founder of the local chapter of Confrérie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs in 1976
- Most famous gourmet and wine collector on the Central Coast by 1980s
- Napa Wine Auction of 1983 – highest bidder for a single lot which made history nationwide
- Philanthropist who developed the Wine Auction as a major source of fund raising in San Luis Obispo County; Larry became known as the man whose wine and food contacts put the gold in the event.
- Founder of the KCBX Wine Classic with Archie McLaren in 1984
- Supporter of the World of Pinot founded by Brian Talley and Archie McLaren by providing hotel accommodations, food and event facilities at the Cliffs Hotel in Shell Beach for the first ten years of the festival
- Educator of local winemakers on fine California wine and cuisine which enhanced the quality and lifestyle on the Central Coast. He introduced local winemakers to the finest winery owners and chefs in the world; his friendships, collaborations and networks raised the quality of local wines and cuisine to new heights. His connections forged lasting friendships between those is San Luis Obispo and winemakers and chefs all over the world. They put San Luis Obispo on the world wine map!
- Founder of the Laral Hotels, which owned the Embassy Suites and San Luis Bay Inn on the Central Coast, featuring fine cuisine with top chefs and extensive wine lists of European, California and local wines
- Investor in new restaurants and wineries in San Luis Obispo County to support the fine food and wines of the Central Coast.
- Larry is the man who buys wines for one reason – to share them with his friends. This is the spirit that Larry has imbued to so many.
- Recipient of the Robert Mondavi Food and Wine Award in 2018
Growing up in New York with the Tomato King
Larry Shupnick grew up in the New York Borough of Brooklyn. His father, Jack Shupnick, was known as “The Tomato King,” selling tomatoes and produce at the Washington Market in New York City. Jack Shupnick had a vegetable stand where Larry worked starting at age 9. On the weekends, Larry would go with his father to help repack tomatoes and socialize with his father’s colleagues. He remembers his first contact with the hotel industry through his father’s business. The chefs and food service directors of New York hotels bought their produce from “The Tomato King.” Larry listened as his father negotiated his prices skillfully. Larry was first exposed to “the art of the deal” and learned to negotiate from his father. Jack Shupnick always treated Larry to a fine lunch, after their work was finished, at a hotel or restaurant on those Saturday afternoons. Larry acquired a taste for fine food as a child and observed his father’s friendships and business negotiations firsthand.
Today Larry is known for his long-term friendships, his ability to find the right business partner and THE ART OF THE DEAL. He is referred to as “Professor for the College of Hotel Knowledge.”
Larry was not immediately attracted to the food and hotel industry. His love of animals started as a young child and still is paramount in his life. He grew up as the youngest of eight children and spent his summers with his sister and brother-in-law running a concession stand at their hotel in the Catskill Mountains. They also owned a 200-acre working farm with 2,000 chickens and 400 cattle. Larry worked at the farm and developed a deep concern and love for animals from dogs to horses. This love of animals led him to apply to Cornell University’s pre-vet program in Ithaca, New York. Larry had decided to pursue a career as a veterinarian. However, in his second year he witnessed a surgery on a cow that sickened him while working in the large animal clinic. This incident changed his career path.
However, his love of animals has been a major theme in his personal life as is his love of “the West.” Larry is a fan of Clint Eastwood and movies of the Wild West. City Slickers is his favorite film of all time; Country western music is his favorite to listen to. Larry and his favorite horse, Reno, participated in the four-day annual 60-mile cattle drive to the Mid State Fairgrounds in Paso Robles when he first moved to the Central Coast. He is a member of Los Caballeros de San Luis Obispo. This organization was formed in 1944 to preserve the rich ranching traditions from California’s Spanish heritage and to “promote horseback riding, education of western entertainment among citizens of San Luis Obispo County and to generally re-establish the customs, ideas, and characteristics of early California days.” The first ride to the Spooner Ranch in Montana de Oro in the fall of 1944 began the annual tradition that continues to this day.
Larry joined the Los Caballeros Board of Directors in 2004, and became President of the Board in 2012 and is still an active member.
Larry becomes the “Professor for the College of Hotel Knowledge”
Larry transferred to the City College of New York in his junior year to pursue a degree in business. He then decided to enter the two-year program of hotel management at New York Technical College. After he graduated, he started work in the hospitality industry in New York and Miami, Florida.
Larry learned to appreciate fine food as a child with his father Jack Shupnick. Those lunches impacted him in two ways. Larry realized he had the palate to appreciate fine food; as an adult he was inspired to pursue a career in the food, wine and the hospitality industry.
His early food and wine education were enhanced by his membership in one of the most prestigious organizations in the world, Confrérie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, which was founded as an ancient guild in France in the 1200s. It is the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world. The Confrérie flourished until the French Revolution in 1789 when it collapsed. The organization was not revived in Europe until after World War II in 1950. Larry joined the organization in 1967 while working in Miami in the hotel industry. As Larry’s career in the hospitality industry moved him on to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Larry became active in the local chapters of this organization in both cities. When he moved to the Central Coast, Larry decided to establish a local chapter in San Luis Obispo County. Archie McLaren, Co-Founder of the KCBX Wine Classic with Larry, was the first Baille.
Larry began collecting wine in Miami. Larry describes his collection: “I have more than 10,000 bottles of wine: the oldest is an 1868 Madeira … I only buy wine for one reason – to enjoy it with my friends.”
His favorite food is American Cuisine, followed by French. His passion for cooking led him to develop his own culinary skills. He is an excellent cook and has cooked with many famous chefs across the United States. Julia Child became a dear friend. He opened his own restaurant, Citronella, in Los Angeles with long-time friend, Chef Michel Richard. They opened two more restaurants over the years in Santa Barbara, one in Tysons Corner and in Washington DC. In 2008 Larry and Michel Richard won the James Beard Award for best new restaurant, Central, in Washington DC. Today Larry is recognized as one of America’s foremost gourmets and recognized internationally as well.
Larry moved from Florida to Las Vegas where he managed the Stardust, Aladdin and Fremont Hotel/Casinos in the early 1970s. Previously he worked in senior executive positions at Hilton Hotels Corporation, Schine Hotels and Recion Corporation. He was continually recognized for his success in increasing the number guests and their pleasure at each of these resorts.
The Founding of Laral Hotels and the Move to Avila Beach
In 1968 Larry founded his own company, Laral Hotels, as a hotel management and ownership company. He soon became known for his ability to find hotel properties that were undervalued and to purchase or take over management to dramatically improve service and performance. In 1973 he moved to the Central Coast with a contract to manage the San Luis Bay Inn and golf course in Avila. He developed the hotel into a gathering place for community and food events. The San Luis Bay Inn became the location for major philanthropic and educational gatherings.
By 1974, Larry was a hotelier in Avila Beach owning the Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo and managing the iconic San Luis Bay Inn. At the San Luis Bay Inn Larry developed an attractive bar and an elegant menu which attracted an adventurous group of diners. The wine list was the most extensive in San Luis Obispo County. Larry soon developed close friendships with local winemakers and his patrons. Sharing his wines and fine cuisine inspired Larry to create a gourmet menu complimented by fine wines from Europe, Napa and Sonoma Counties. His patrons were enthusiastic, and as he developed a larger following. Larry recognized the need to provide education to local residents and local winemakers of San Luis Obispo County.
The Founding of the San Luis Food and Wine Society on the Central Coast
Larry created the San Luis Food and Wine Society and invited friends, patrons, and winemakers to join. He organized dinners, wine tastings as well as events to discuss and taste gourmet cuisine and fine wines. This organization changed the wine and food history of San Luis Obispo County. It provided the opportunity for new chefs with remarkable talents to move to San Luis Obispo County and open their own restaurants, including the Rizzo family who opened the now iconic Café Roma in San Luis Obispo and Laurent Grangien, the founder of Bistro Laurent in Paso Robles. It enabled young winemakers including Bill and Nancy Greenough of Saucelito Canyon and Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery to collaborate with winemakers in California and abroad.
Larry founded the San Luis Bay Inn Food and Wine Society in 1976 to celebrate fine foods and wines. He has a flair for the dramatic and created educational events with excitement, laughter and fun. The group, perhaps 30 couples from Europe, New York and San Luis Obispo County, met annually at the San Luis Bay Inn for a weekend of unforgettable food and wine events. Friday evenings included themed events so everyone appeared in costume. Favorite memories include: the Medieval Banquet where everyone feasted on traditional food with their hands, Mexican Fiestas with Mariachis, the TV Show MASH with Gary Eberle appearing in rollers and a print dress as Klinger with the native Korean food served as well as the elaborate Arabian Feast to name just a few.
Most of the guests stayed at the Inn. On Saturday a lavish picnic was prepared and enjoyed at the top of the hill with views of the ocean. The Saturday evening events were formal, black tie, with food prepared by a well-known chef from as far away as New York City and wines from Larry’s famous wine cellar. Sunday morning Larry hosted the Cowboy Breakfast at McLintocks Saloon in Arroyo Grande. He brought his horse and made certain all the guests got a photograph riding horseback to remember the event.
Larry shared his knowledge of fine food and fine wines with local winemakers by hosting wine tastings, wine dinners and guest chefs during the year. Friendships among California winemakers from Northern California and Santa Barbara developed with our local chefs and winemakers; this led to collaborations at future wine auctions and charity events. The Auctions at the KCBX Wine Classic started at his own San Luis Bay Inn.
Larry also hosted events that inspired local wineries to invite famous chefs to prepare and serve local wine dinners in their own tasting rooms in the San Luis Obispo County for wine club members to enjoy. San Luis Obispo County gradually became a destination for tourists and wine lovers; memberships in wine clubs at our local wineries expanded dramatically. The San Luis Obispo County “Lifestyle” was greatly enhanced because of Larry’s influence and educational efforts.
Larry Becomes San Luis Obispo’s Foremost Gourmet and Wine Collector
By the early 1980s Larry was recognized as San Luis Obispo County’s foremost gourmet and admired for his extensive wine collection. At that time he was a member of some of the most prestigious wine and food societies in the world: Chevaliers Du Tastevin, Brotherhood of the Knights of the Wine, Ordre Des Coteaux de Champagne and was selected as the Bailli Delfue Honoraire for the Confrérie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs. He encouraged local chefs and winemakers to join these groups and expand their business and social networks. He invested in several San Luis Obispo wineries including Eberle Winery.
Larry was a member of:
Confrérie Chevaliers Du Tastevn, exclusive bacchanalian fraternity of Burgundy wine enthusiasts. It was founded in 1934 and is headquartered at the 12th century Chateau de Clos de Vougeot in the Cote d’Or region of France.
The Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine – International Wine Brotherhoods Federation was founded in 1964, with headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. The organization, in the tradition of brotherhoods world-wide, promotes the American wine industry and educates its members on the benefits and enjoyment of wine. The organization was created to unite those who produce wine, sell wine and all those who appreciate wine. There are 100 Wine Brotherhoods across the United States and the world. It offers luncheons, dinners, wine tastings and educational seminars.
The Ordre Des Coteaux de Champagne, official fraternity of the major Champagne brands. The mission of the organization is to promote the variety, taste and other unique characteristics that make Champagne synonymous with success and celebration everywhere. Members include professional restaurateurs and sommeliers, famous connoisseurs, people in show business, politics and the media.
Bailli Delegue Honoraire: The Confrérie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international gastronomic society in France that was originally founded in 1248 and operated until the French Revolution. It was founded for the second time in Paris in 1950. It is known as the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world. It is based on the traditions and practices of the old French royal guild of goose roasters, whose authority was expanded gradually to the roasting of all poultry. The chapter in the United States has a membership of approximately 6,000 gourmands, gourmets, gastronomes, chefs, restaurateurs, food and wine educators, and others interested in the finest dining and life experiences. The organization offers, celebrations, competitions, culinary masterpieces and conviviality, Culinary weekends and the USA Grand Chapître.
Great chefs Begin Relocating to the Central Coast from Big Cities
Larry was a magnet for the great chefs who settled on the Central Coast. He supported them and invested in some of their restaurants. This changed the cuisine and lifestyle on the Central Coast. Those who he admired were the Rizzo family, Bill Hoppe, and Laurent Grangien.
The Rizzo family lived at the San Luis Bay Inn when they moved to the Central Coast to open Café Roma. In the late 1970s, Wilhelm (Bill) Hoppe worked at the local Golden Tee Inn as a chef. A few years later, he opened Windows on the Water in Morro Bay and followed by his second restaurant, Hoppe’s in the mid-1980s, overlooking Morro Bay. He eventually moved his restaurant to Cayucos into an historic building and garden, renaming it Hoppe’s Garden Bistro around 2001 and operated it until his death in November 2010. Larry inspired him; Bill became a premier chef in the area and one of the first champions of local farm-to-table dining. When Executive Chef Laurent Grangien moved to the Central Coast from Los Angeles in 1993, he worked as the chef at the Inn at Morro Bay. He soon asked for investors to support him in opening Bistro Laurent in Paso Robles in 1996. Larry stepped up to invest in this new restaurant and has been a staunch supporter to this day.
Larry focused on local San Luis Obispo County wines as well as the great wine regions in California and Europe. Most of the local restaurants in San Luis Obispo County were serving wines from Napa until Max Goldman, who purchased York Mountain Winery in the 1970s, replanted the old vineyards and started making his own wine. Max was the first to focus on marketing his wine locally in the 1970s.
Following Larry’s lead at the San Luis Bay Inn, local winemakers’ bottles of wines were featured on local menus in San Luis Obispo County including: Maison Deutz, producer of Sparkling Wines, HMR (Stanley, Michael and David Hoffman) making Cabernet, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir in North County, Ken Volk making award winning wines at Wild Horse in Templeton, and Gary Eberle producing Cabernet Sauvignon in the Estrella River Valley. South County producers included Edna Valley Vineyard, Chamisal, Paragon Vineyards owned by the Niven family, Zinfandel growers Bill and Nancy Greenough, and Don, Rosemary, and Brian Talley growing and making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys – all were marketing their wines to our local restaurants and wine shops.
The KCBX Wine Classic – A new approach to Philanthropy
Larry’s most profound contribution to San Luis Obispo County was as co-founder of the KCBX Wine Classic to raise funds annually for the new NPR station in San Luis Obispo County. As a collector, Larry was familiar with wine auctions and their potential for raising large sums of money for philanthropic purposes. In 1983 Larry made history at the third annual Napa Valley Auction held on June 19, in St Helena. Larry paid the highest price at that time for a single lot of wine with special packaging: the 1979 Far Niente Chardonnay. Far Niente was founded by San Francisco entrepreneur John Benson in 1885 in the Napa Valley. The winery produced their wines until Prohibition closed the old stone winery located just south of Oakville. It was abandoned for over 60 years before being transformed into a state-of-the-art winemaking facility and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Far Niente means “without a care.” The lot contained six bottles ranging in size from a split (375 milliliters) to a giant salmanazar which holds the equivalent of 12 750-milliliter bottles. The oak case was built to look like a grand piano. Larry’s bid was covered in newspapers and magazines across the Country. The lot had been valued prior to auction by owner Gil Nickel at $1,000 but the bids quickly rose to $7,000, Larry’s final bid with paddle 54. The auctioneer. The auctioneer, Michael Broadbent, was known as the world’s fastest auctioneer. Narsai David catered the candlelight banquet for 1,000. Both men worked at the future wine classics in San Luis Obispo County.
Larry and Archie McLaren are celebrated as co-founders of the KCBX Wine Classic. Larry hosted the first event at the San Luis Bay Inn on the deck around the pool in 1984. Larry offered California wines such as Sterling Reserve Cabernet, Stony Hill Vineyard Chardonnay and Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet. Larry was the auctioneer at the first Wine Auction for the KCBX Wine Classic. The KCBX Wine Classic was the first major charity wine auction in San Luis Obispo County. Gary Eberle of Eberle Wines and Larry Rosenblum of Creston Manor Winery also donated their wines to the event.
The Wine Classic became the major fundraiser for the public radio station, KCBX through 2001. Larry introduced co-founder Archie to famous chefs, winemakers and auctioneers throughout the United States to build participation and national interest in the event. These early wine makers included the now famous Jim Clendenen, Frank Ostini and Randall Grahm.
Although the first event did not show a profit, the KCBX Wine Auction, later known as the Central Coast Wine Classic, 2003 through 2017, raised millions for charities in San Luis Obispo County and changed the face and possibilities for local philanthropy. Wine Classic Cuvees were made in collaboration with winemakers from all over California who attended the annual event. Local glass artist Candace Norcross designed and etched the bottles containing these Cuvees for each auction. The wine auction tradition continues today in a variety of charitable events across San Luis Obispo County; local wineries donate hundreds of bottles annually to support philanthropy.
Larry – Investing in the Future of Hospitality
In 1987 Michel Richard opened Citrus Restaurant on Melrose in Los Angeles. A friendship between the Larry and Michel began when Michel opened his bakery on Doheny just east of Beverly Hills. Larry bought croissants and started the conversation which led to enjoying fine meals together, supporting the KCBX Wine Classic dining events, and opening and operating several restaurants together including Citronelle. Larry worked with Michel until Michel’s death in 2016. They won the 2008 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, Central, in Washington DC.
During the financial downturn of 1988, a business venture in which Larry was a partner failed during the banking crisis. Larry lost over $5,000,000 of his own money because of one of his partners, a California Bank. The partnership was in trouble with the Federal Government and Larry lost four hotels in the process. He considered filing Chapter 11 Bankruptcy but was convinced by his accountant to borrow money from friends to get back on his feet and to move on. He was able to repay all his debts as he rebuilt the businesses of Laral. However, he decided to sell the San Luis Bay Inn in 1989.
In 1990, a new business opportunity emerged. Larry merged his company, Laral, with MeriStar’s predecessor company, CapStar Hotel Company. In 1999 Larry stated that “we have an excellent team at MeriStar that knows how to gain the best possible performance out of a hotel property so what we look for are hotels that can benefit from enhanced operating performance. We look for hotels that are under performing that have potential for a higher occupancy and an increase in average daily rate.” This company eventually became Interstate Hotels.
Larry’s career at First Interstate Hotels soon expanded; he was named Senior Vice President of Development and Acquisitions, for Interstate Hotel and Resorts in 2006. Larry continues to oversee special projects for Interstate Hotel and Resorts. He lives in Avila and Napa and is active in Cal Poly Pomona as a board member of the Collins College of Hospitality Management. He received the Robert Mondavi Hospitality Award in 2018. He continues as a member of the Caballeros de San Luis Obispo riding club; he was named as President in 2012.
To quote Larry: “Retirement is not in my vocabulary. I still love what I call the ‘art of the deal’ and what I do with Interstate is still fun.”