Golden Foodies honors Alicia Whitney as Restaurateur of the Year
by Susan Montgomery
Earlier this fall, I had the good fortune to attend the prestigious 2017 Golden Foodie Awards as a representative of the International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association. This gala annual event, which was held at the beautiful Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, honors restaurants and chefs who are excelling in Orange County and it was an impressive evening in every way. Attendees first gathered in the Marriott’s lovely garden area where we nibbled on creative gourmet treats presented from a variety of outstanding Orange County chefs and sipped inventive cocktails presented by Ketel One, Patron and Maker’s Mark. It was a sunny warm afternoon and the reception was alive with the buzz of stylish guests enjoying the contagious camaraderie inspired by good food and drinks.
We then adjourned to the ballroom where tables were exquisitely set with wine, Champagne, and more savory snacks. Then it was time for the highlight of the evening—the presentation of the Golden Foodie Awards in a wide range of categories from Best Lunch Spot in Orange County and Pastry Chef of the Year to Best Service Award and Best New Restaurant. One of the most notable awards was Best Restaurateur of the Year, which was very deservedly won by vibrant and talented Alica Whitney.
So I did a bit of research on Alicia Whitney and am amazed by her myriad accomplishments. She currently has seven restaurants in Huntington Beach, each with a special theme. SeaSalt Woodfire Grill focuses on the much celebrated Santa Maria style of BBQ and offers unique and delicious dry-rubbed meats slowly grilled over red oak in the traditional Central Coast style. (I want to try the smoked tri-tip pictured below left.) SeaLegs Wine Bar (pictured below right) is very different with its nautical, beach theme and has been so popular that a second modified location has been established at LAX. (I plan to order the Stinky Fries with a three-cheese truffle fondue.)
Alicia has also launched four casual beach dining spots: Beach City Provisions, a store and sandwich place located in an RV Park in Bolsa Chica; Pacific Kitchen, a “shack” on a surf spot between Newport and Huntington Beach; Seaside Beach Burger, showcasing burgers and other meats accented with dry rubs; and Sealegs at the Beach featuring a beachy outdoor setting.
Where does Alicia get her passion and creativity?
Before launching her restaurants, Alicia worked for her uncle who was in the bar and restaurant business. This led to working in the event and venue planning business, all of which immersed her in the food and beverage industries. This knowledge and experience eventually transferred easily into establishing her own restaurants. Despite the obvious challenges of running all these successful dining spots, Alicia loves the restaurant business.
She says, “I love watching people grow. My biggest joy is to take people who love this business and help them develop into bigger roles. I also love watching thoughts turn into reality and watching good ideas turn into great ones.”
Alicia believes in giving back to the community that supports her businesses. She is active on the Board of Visit Huntington Beach and in the Chamber of Commerce, where she has helped to bring together young entrepreneurs and supported them as they launch their businesses. And she happily donates her time, energy, ideas and funds in a variety of ways to support other community projects.
It’s no surprise that Alicia has exciting visions for the future of her businesses. She plans on launching more restaurants and also has plans to release a wine called Alicia next spring in partnership with Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery.
It’s easy to see why Alicia was recognized as an outstanding restaurateur. She is thrilled to be honored for the fourth year in a row by the Golden Foodie Awards, which she says “has been focused on building Orange County as a dining destination.” She emphasizes, “They truly showcase the best of the best among independent restaurants through merit and weight. It’s a tremendous honor to be nominated and win as 2017 Restauranteur of the Year, especially as a woman.”
Congratulations, Alicia Whitney, on your business success and on receiving this well-deserved Golden Foodie award.