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Photograph by George Sakkestad

Like a Rock: Chef Lynn Sheehan of Sand Rock Farm Inn

Inn by the Sea

Sand Rock Farm Inn flourishes under expert touch of chef Lynn Sheehan

By Christina Waters

CHEF LYNN SHEEHAN moves fast. As chef and co-proprietor of the gracious Sand Rock Farm Inn, she has helped to renovate, design, build, decorate and restore the turn-of-the-century country estate on the former 1,000-acre holdings of one Dr. August Liliencrantz. Remains of the former winery and orchards still linger around this historic inn within hiking distance of the ocean. "I had wanted to do my own restaurant, but in a small town situation," Sheehan recalls. "Then I found myself in business with my mother, Kris, on this property." And after a year of work, the Sheehans opened last Labor Day as a lodging and site for special events, weekend dinners and catered affairs created by Lynn Sheehan.

Her high-end restaurant pedigree is impressive. Sheehan trained with Madeleine Kamman in Napa and in Burgundy at La Varenne before refining her dessert techniques at Chocolaterie Valrhona. Then it was on to Citron by night, while cooking at Postrio by day. After opening Rubicon, she went on to MECCA. Once the sale of the Transamerica Pyramid ended her days as executive chef of Vertigo, Sheehan found herself looking around for her next move.

"I want to draw on my professional background," Sheehan explains, "but I have to admit that not running a restaurant has given me back my life." And it's a busy, if wonderful, life. "I'm essentially running the business most of the time, doing winery outreach and lots of catering."

Wine dinners--involving her sophisticated grasp of the nuances of wine and food pairing--let Sheehan stretch her full skills. In league with the Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers, Sheehan has already finessed Passport series dinners and several winemaker events. "Guests are beginning to find us," the ace chef notes. "We're only half a mile from the freeway--Freedom Boulevard was the original stagecoach road."

And yet the Inn and its 10 wooded acres feel the proverbial million miles away. Sheehan enjoyed getting out of the kitchen and doing lots of the hands-on restoration of the Craftsman-inspired mansion. "I'm not a B&B hobbyist, even though it's been wonderful to be creative in a different capacity."

When not catering private dinners, winemaker events and managing the Inn, Sheehan is busy being honored on the international guest chef circuit (James Beard Foundation series; Sonoma Chef's Tasting; Masters of Food & Wine). After she comes back next month from cooking in Bordeaux for a gathering of international vintners, I'm going to sample her handiwork for myself. Stay tuned! Mediterranean/California catering by a high-powered professional with impeccable credentials is a real possibility. Contact Lynn Sheehan, 831.596.0590; [email protected]. Or treat yourself to a short drive into the country and visit Sand Rock Farm Inn, located at 6901 Freedom Blvd., Aptos (831.688.8005).

Sweet News

Chocolat is now open weekday mornings at 8am for espresso, four types of designer hot chocolate and Kelly's Bakery pastries. The popularity of the movie Chocolat hasn't exactly hurt owner David Jackman's business either. "When the movie opened, people started coming in with their tongues hanging out and eyes burning." They also came for Richard Donnelly's truffles and bonbons, the lunch special of pasta with duck ragout and those late-night treats. Chocolat is open until 11pm--427.9900--in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz at 1522 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz.

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From the March 28-April 4, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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