The Beet got an early taste of the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara’s new plant-based offerings at the resort's Bella Vista restaurant, created in partnership with vegan chef Leslie Durso. Here's the scoop:

Guests and visitors of one of Santa Barbara’s most coveted luxury resorts, the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, have something to be very excited about: the debut of new vegan-friendly menus with dedicated plant-based items across its restaurants. 

The menus were created in partnership with Leslie Durso, a vegan chef and wellness coach brought in by the resort to curate intentional plant-based options as well as train and educate staff. 

The latest offerings are versatile, delicious and strike a perfect mix of light fare and rich classics. The Bella Vista restaurant, the resort’s fine-dining establishment set overlooking the ocean, boasts an impressive mix of thoughtful plant-based appetizers, entrées, and even a decadent vegan chocolate cake for dessert. The Portobello Piccata entrée is perfect, adorned in an out-of-this-world full-bodied caper-“butter” sauce and butternut squash shreds instead of pasta. Also to note is the Lasagna, generously portioned--you could certainly split amongst two--conjures a delicious richness; trust, even carnivores won’t miss the meat or cheese. Finally, the Pumpkin Bisque soup may have been the highlight of the meal, hitting a perfect balance of sweet and savory complete with a delightful cashew crema accompaniment.

“As a Southern California native with an Italian background, I am so thrilled to be working in partnership with Chef Michael Patria and the team at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara,” says Durso in an interview with The Beet. “The Four Seasons is a brand that stands for excellence in all manors and The Biltmore Santa Barbara property is exactly that.”  

Durso spent last week at the resort training and educating staff, who were all keenly aware of the items, well-versed on the menu, and showing enthusiasm about the plant-based additions. Durso noted that she also does front-of-house and back-of-house training on what all the dietary restrictions and different labels mean, along with creating designated systems to avoid cross contamination, something that is becoming increasingly important to veg eaters.

This menu and partnership isn’t The Four Seasons first foray into the veg-friendly dining scene. Durso’s partnership with The Four Seasons goes back to 2017, launching dedicated plant-based offerings at the chain’s Punta Mita resort located in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, rolling out over 25 dedicated plant-based menu offerings across its three properties in the region. In July of 2018, the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills launched a vegan menu, “Folia,” inspired by and in partnership with renowned vegan chef Matthew Kenney. And, the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach launched a vegan menu dubbed “Get The Glow Vegan Menu” during Veganuary that debut at The Pearl Courtyard in the resort in 2019. 

A spokeswoman from the Santa Barbara resort noted that many of their guests visit from their vegan-friendly neighbor to the south, Los Angeles, so it made sense to add the plant-based items. “Approximately 76% of our transient business comes from Los Angeles, a city that currently offers a plethora of wonderful vegan and plant-based options, so we really felt is was important to offer our guests [plant-based options],” says Emilie Plouchart, the public relations director for the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Plouchart also noted that they wanted to ensure that no matter where you are coming from--whether it be locally to dine or visiting from the other side of the world--guests have an inclusive and accommodating dining experience. 

Durso is a smart partnership for the Four Seasons, and it’s encouraging to see resorts partnering with experts who live and breath the plant-based lifestyle. “I stopped eating meat when I was 7 years old, have been vegan for over a decade, and have a severe shellfish allergy, so I know first hand how challenging travel can be,” say Durso. “It’s my mission to create menus where anyone with any dietary restrictions can enjoy a meal together with no one feeling left out.” Together, The Four Seasons and Durso are doing just that, and so far, they are doing it brilliantly.

For more information about the resort and its restaurants check out https://www.fourseasons.com/santabarbara/