Ranch House Lassoes a New Chef
Before the recent spate of restaurants churning out fresh, plant-based dishes, there was the Ranch House—a humble boarding-house-turned-restaurant that has been pioneering a seasonal-and-sustainable approach since opening over 60 years ago. So when J. Richard Sejkousky took the helm as the new chef this fall and rewrote the venerable Meiners Oaks restaurant’s menu, it reflected just that. In other words, cookery that honors the eatery’s history and highlights Sejkousky’s French, classical techniques and modern interpretation.
“I believe in organic, locally grown food,” says Sejkousky, formerly executive chef at Sheila’s Wine Bar & Restaurant in Camarillo. “I try to stay sustainable. I try to stay socially and environmentally conscious.”
Stepping inside Ojai Ranch House is akin to stumbling across a secret—an enchanted forest dotted with wrought-iron tables, some overlooking a small pond of sun-gold fish darting around and loosening the stiffest of conversations (perhaps with a little help from the restaurant’s wide array of wines).
Sejkousky sources vegetables for the restaurant’s menu from Ventura County growers, including Earthtrine Farm, Underwood Ranches and McGrath Family Farm.
This winter, Sejkousky is thinking about offering a traditional osso buco braised in a red wine tomato beef stock with a saffron risotto topped with a fresh parsley gremolata. Maybe even braised brisket with carrots, parsnips, bok choy and fingerling potatoes in a ginger-beef broth.
Sejkousky also makes the effort to push classics toward the healthy side of things, even when he makes risotto—a notoriously indulgent dish. To maintain its creaminess, he replaces the butter and cheese with cashew cream. “It has a nice pop,” he says. “I put some apple juice in there, and I do my own pickled ginger, so that’s in there.”
In addition to experimenting with pickling and fermentation, Richard hopes to infuse the menu with more vegetables in lieu of heavy meats—to keep things bright, light and vibrant, the way he likes them.
Ojai Ranch House
102 Besant Rd., Ojai