Jensen Lorenzen of Cass House, Cayucos
Chef Jensen Lorenzen’s seasonal menu serves as a nuanced barometer for what’s freshest on the Central Coast now. The Cass House head chef and co-owner pulls from sea, soil and sun to create authentic, urgent cuisine beloved by Cayucos locals and discerning travelers alike.
“I want to offer the best I possibly can at any given time. The Central Coast area has so many resources: farmers, produce, meat and fish,” said the 32-year-old chef. “We have the very best in California, and I don’t think we’ve gotten credit for it.’”
Built in the late 1800s, the meticulously restored inn aims to take tourists on an intimate edible adventure spotlighting regional bounty. Serving about 35 tables per night is ideal for Lorenzen, who spent years seeking a cozy, culinary home to call his own.
“I want to know my guests by name, know what they like and be able to manipulate a personalized menu for them,” the chef said.
Born in Southern California, Lorenzen moved to Los Osos with his family in 1994. He started working in kitchens at 14, eventually landing a sous-chef position at 21.
“I always like a challenge and I like to feel like I am being pushed,” said Lorenzen, who relished working within the parameters each season. At 24, the chef opened Baywoodbased French restaurant, Papillion.
“That was the first time I took a menu and, in the most basic way, geared around what I could get locally,” he said. “A lot of people take food for granted, both producers and consumers. I think the whole experience should be a much more thought-out.”
That simple desire to take regional ingredients and offer them at the peak of freshness has come full circle at Cass House. A rigorously maintained on-site garden produces a plethora of fruits, veggies and herbs. If you ask Lorenzen, there’s no better complement to the bevy of local seafood, beef and poultry already at his fingertips.
“The garden is our measure for what’s going on seasonally, so we start there,” said Lorenzen. “It’s how we gauge what’s happening with the rest of the area. The Central Coast is an incredible place, and we want to share it with the people who live here.”