Alicia Whitney calls Surf City home and is Huntington Beach's most dynamic, high profile restauranteur. In less than five years Whitney has opened seven restaurants in Orange and Los Angeles counties, including four on the beach. At the 2017 Golden Foodies Awards she was recognized by the Orange County Restaurant Association as Restauranteur of the Year. Other accolades include Orange County Register’s 2016 Most Influential and, for three consecutive year, the Golden Foodie award for Best California Cuisine at SeaLegs.
Your hospitality roots began years before the opening of SeaLegs, tell us a little about that.
I’ve always been interested in the business in some way. After spending a few years in Las Vegas developing restaurant concepts and creating nightlife experiences, I decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life. Once I had my daughter Sahara, I knew it was time for me to live my dream of opening up a concept in my hometown of Huntington Beach.
Huntington Beach has always been known more for its bar scene than its restaurants, what made you decide to open your first restaurant in Huntington Beach?
It’s my hometown – when I left Las Vegas, I knew there weren’t many restaurant options outside of Main Street, which is more of a bar scene. I knew I wanted to develop HB into a true culinary destination.
How was the decision made to expand the brand?
Opportunities came to me - and I always took them when they came! Sometimes it wasn’t exactly the timing I expected, but I jumped on them and always put my all into it.
Chef Alexander Dale headed the kitchen at SeaLegs until last year. Who is at the helm now?
Ken McCaskill is the Executive Chef and General Manager of SeaLegs Wine Bar. Ken brings a wealth of experience as and we’re proud to have him bring his extensive culinary skills and an ever-changing, seasonally-inspired menu to SeaLegs.
And at SeaSalt?
Sean McCuen is our Executive Chef at SeaSalt Woodfire. Grill Sean has 14 years of pitmaster experience directly from Santa Maria – so we’re so excited to have him a the helm of SeaSalt.
Besides two restaurants, the PRjkt Group operates four concessions at Bolsa Chica State Beach. How were they developed? Are these seasonal?
Each restaurant has a different concept – overviews of each are below. When I originally bid for the project, I was hoping to get just one but was surprised to get all four! They are currently open seasonally, and are closing for the season on November 12, 2017 and will reopen on March 17, 2018.
SeaLegs at the Beach, a one-acre beach club, is a surfside rendition of SeaLegs Wine Bar, the award-winning wine bar and lounge, which Gayot named as one of the top 10 restaurants in Orange County. At SeaLegs at the Beach, sun-kissed diners can choose from an array of scratch-made menu items including Poke Nachos with sushi-grade Ahi topped with a Sriracha aioli or a chopped Summer Salad featuring butter lettuce, grilled corn, blackberries, peaches, crumbled goat cheese and fresh herbs as they sip from an assortment of hand selected wines and brews. Diners can also enjoy gourmet s’mores after the sun goes down as they toast marshmallows on an iconic Huntington Beach fire pit.
SeaSalt Beachside Burger satisfies visitors seeking a taste of nostalgic California barbeque. Visitors can pull up and enjoy the view while dining on a Signature SeaSalt Burger with a craft beer.
Beach City Provisions features a boutique convenience store offering camping goods as well as beer, wine and gourmet provisions and sandwiches for visitors that are RVing at Bolsa Chica State Beach.
At the palate-expanding Pacific Kitchen, the menu showcases locally-sourced items of sustainable fish fresh from the Pacific Ocean. Fresh poke, fish tacos and a cold Corona are on the menu for those surfing “Old Man’s” surf point at Bolsa Chica State Beach.
This year, SeaLegs at the Beach began as a concert venue. How did that happen? It appears to be a huge success - will concerts be held year round?
It has been an awesome partnership with SGE (Synergy Global Entertainment). We have been overwhelmed with the interest for this concert venue, which is unlike anything else in Southern California. We’ve had everything from rock to country to punk – even iconic DJ Richard Blade! As opportunities come, we will continue to add year-round concerts. For right now, concerts are running through November 12th.
You are a woman on fire! What’s next for your growing empire?
We’re not stopping anytime soon - I guess you will have to wait and find out!
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs in this competitive industry?
Follow your passions and don’t ever give up. If you truly want to be a part of the business – just do one thing every day towards your goal and you will achieve it.