With a career firmly rooted in the food scene of Southern California, chef Octavio Sabado has an acute sense of culinary trends and which of them are here to stay.

He gets to put this knowledge to good use as executive chef of the Westdrift Manhattan Beach. Sabado’s menu at the hotel’s signature eatery Jute Coastal Kitchen + Bar and the group banquets it serves, is filled with dishes that could be considered special dietary menus elsewhere.

“I think gluten-free is here to stay,” Sabado said. “It’s becoming less of just a dietary restriction and more of a lifestyle. I also think people also want more vegetable-heavy dishes. I often use vegetables in place of starches for purees or sides."

Reinventing the Hotel Dining Menu

Since Westdrift Manhattan Beach reopened in 2018, Sabado made it his goal to proudly highlight in-season, local ingredients and products found year-round in Southern California.

Diners can find gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options throughout the regular menus, such as kimchi ravioli and lotus root chips with citrus yogurt foam.

[Featured Recipe: Spring Vegetable Salad by Chef Octavio Sabado]

The Westdrift Manhattan Beach, the first Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel in Los Angeles, underwent a top to bottom renovation and rebranding in 2018.

Sabado is a graduate of the California School of Culinary Arts, and prior to his position at Westdrift worked for renowned chef Jose Andres as the executive sous chef at The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. In addition to other Southern California hotels, Sabado worked for T-Bird Restaurant Group, a California Franchisee for Outback Steakhouse.

There Sabado managed the opening team and learned the ins and outs of the business aspect of running a restaurant, including the kitchen, staff and front of house.

“When I was managing the opening team for Outback Steakhouse I became very interested in the numbers, front of house and what made it all successful,” he said.

An Unexpected Career Turn for the Better

Sabado credits his experience at T-Bird Restaurant Group with helping him in his position today, including skills such as menu engineering, food cost analysis and overall management.

Before his time in the kitchen, and like many chefs, he didn’t realize this would be his career and passion.

“When I was younger, it was my dream to be a Navy pilot,” Sabado said. “I was accepted to the Naval Academy, but after failing the vision acuity test because I was slightly color blind, which I never knew, I had to rethink what I was going to do with my life.”

When a career as a pilot was no longer an option, Sabado headed to school in Arizona and found work in restaurants. After some time in kitchens, he knew this is where he belonged.

Westdrift Manhattan Beach Group Offerings

In addition to its restaurant role, Jute Coastal Kitchen + Bar provides room service and facilitates the catering operation for Westdrift’s more than 35,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

“We pride ourselves on offering our groups food they see at the restaurant,” Sabado said.

“Just like our menu at Jute, we offer fresh, lighter, vegetable-focused dishes for our groups,” he added. “I can’t remember the last time I made a mashed potato dish!”

[Related Content: 4 Healthy Food & Beverage Strategies]

The lower level meeting space features a wall of windows that look out, and open, onto the property’s 24-acre golf course. Groups can utilize the spaces separately or as one for an event.

And like the diverse menu, groups won’t get bland when it comes to the way the food is served.

“We take special care in the way we present the food to groups,” Sabado said.

“You won’t see hotel pans set out on a buffet table here.”

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