Emphasizing fresh seafood and seasonal offerings, Cielito is the latest culinary venture by Gordon Hardey, from the renowned local family-owned restaurants Jeannine’s, and business partner Karen Phillips, a long-time friend of the Hardey family. They were inspired to open a restaurant that celebrates the richness and diversity of Mexican cuisine. Together with Velazquez and the rest of the Cielito team, they bring their passion for extraordinary food to life, writing a new story for Mexican food in Santa Barbara.
Chef Ramon Velazquez – Executive Chef
Cielito’s Executive Chef Ramon Velazquez grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. As the eldest of seven siblings, he spent his youth cooking alongside his mother and grandmother at home and in the family’s “fonda,” a small neighborhood food stand outside their home. Some of Chef Ramon’s favorite foods growing up were “Antojitos” which translates to “small cravings”. Antojitos are traditionally served in small bites and reflect the fresh local produce from the region and change with the seasons. These form the basis for Cielito’s small plates, ideal for sharing among friends. Chef Ramon moved to Santa Barbara in 1990, and after finishing his education, he pursued his passion for the culinary world and worked in many notable local restaurants, honing his skills and defining his style. Most recently, Chef Ramon spent 12 years at Arigato, ultimately serving as head sushi chef. The beautiful presentation and extraordinary skill and care with fresh fish dishes are hallmarks of the style that is distinctively his. Now excited with the future of Cielito, Chef presents his new interpretation of the food he grew up loving.
Sandra Adu – Pastry Chef
Sandra Adu joins the Cielito culinary team from London. Adu has always loved cooking and knew from a young age that she wanted to be a chef. Adu got her first job at the age of 16 in a small restaurant where she worked weekends while attending culinary school. Adu finished her culinary school training in three years at the Colchester Institute, and in October of 2008, she made the move to the United States. Adu says that her “mum’s” cooking has always been her favorite, but at the moment, she has a serious taco addiction. At the restaurant, Adu loves to take a moment in the Cielito Room to sip her favorite drink, the Cielito Margarita. From the menu, Adu’s top choice is the Pulpo a la Plancha (Grilled Spanish octopus). As the pastry chef, it’s hard to choose a favorite dessert, but Adu will always go for the Crepes with Pecan ‘Cajeta’ Caramel Sauce and a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.
Gordon Hardey – Co-Owner
A native of Santa Barbara, Gordon Hardey graduated from Claremont McKenna College, having spent two years at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. After graduating, Hardey worked for seven years at Inabata Boeki Gaisha, a Japanese trading company based in New York, where he oversaw international sales for Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He returned home to Santa Barbara in 1998 and joined his family’s long-time restaurant business, Jeannine’s Restaurant & Bakery, which his parents began together in Santa Barbara over 20 years ago. Taking the helm at Jeannine’s, Hardey recognized opportunity for growth, and led the effort to expand Jeannine’s from one original restaurant to three restaurants and a retail bakery with over 150 employees. Currently there are three thriving restaurants, located in Montecito, downtown Santa Barbara and upper State Street in Santa Barbara. In 2007 Hardey also spent a year at a top European culinary institute, DCT University in Lucern, Switzerland, to hone his culinary skills, fine-tune his tastes, and learn the vital fundamentals behind making excellent food. His passion for good food and the desire to bring a new take on regional Mexican cuisine to Santa Barbara has led to his latest venture, Cielito Restaurant & Taqueria.
Karen Phillips – Co-Owner
Karen Phillips, Co-owner of Cielito, was born and raised in Berkeley, and is a graduate of UC Berkeley where she studied Romance Languages and Latin American History. Phillips fell in love with the Mexican country, culture, people, and of course cuisine, when studying abroad in college. Post graduation, she moved to Washington, DC for 19 years, where she worked on Social Policy issues for the government and the private sector then later in Real Estate development. Although her restaurant experience was limited, initially intrigued by her Uncle Sam’s Deli in Washington, DC, Phillips relationship with the Hardey family brought her into the world of hospitality. Phillips felt the absence of a gathering place in Santa Barbara where people can experience the tastes that represent the best of Mexico’s diverse regional cuisine. She is appreciative of the fondness and goodwill Santa Barbara has for La Arcada and especially for Cielito’s special place behind the turtle fountain. Phillips recognizes the restaurant’s location as an iconic spot in Santa Barbara history, and hopes that Cielito will recreate a feeling of community while writing a new story for Mexican cuisine as well.