Creating a widely hailed, completely curated dining experience from scratch – from the farmers market-driven, cast-iron cooking all the way down to the vinyl-centric playlist corresponded to the daily changing menus – will do that for a chef.
Over the past two years, he’s kept incredibly busy, helming an array of pop-ups in San Francisco, San Anselmo and Fairfax, consulting on a food truck and a number of restaurants and creating the concept for a new restaurant in Malibu. He was just days away from signing a lease to open a new restaurant in Petaluma.
And then Cassie Corless called, and everything changed.
Corless, widely known in the Bay Area for her stints as manager at restaurateur Larry Mindel’s Poggio Trattoria and later at Copita tequileria Y Comida, had been recently hired by El Paseo owner Sammy Hagar to give the legendary Mill Valley restaurant a makeover of sorts, and though she didn’t know Shoberg personally, his reputation stuck with her.
“I just thought, we’ve got a really cool opportunity – we’ve got the space, the beauty, the location – what I needed was the perfect chef,” Corless says.
The pair met the next day. “It was instant chemistry and I knew right away that he was the right person for the job,” she says. “My mind was made up.”
“It happened very quickly,” Shoberg adds.
As a formality, he met with Hagar, who he’d met casually a few times when the Red Rocker would stop in Molina with his family, and they hit it off.
For Shoberg, the opportunity was two-fold. First, he and Corless had carte blanche to completely start over, and they did just that. Before he opened Molina, Shoberg was the executive chef at Moana Restaurant Group’s Piatti Restaurant for five years, putting the popular eatery on the farm-to-table map by launching a daily market menu in 2010 that was laden with farmers market ingredients. Being able to take that ingredients-focused, locally sourced approach seven years later to a restaurant with Hagar’s backing and with El Paseo’s reputation brought on a surge of creativity, Shoberg says.
“We literally erased the menu file and started with a blank menu sheet,” he says. “It’ll be an always-evolving thing.”
“He changed up the whole menu in like a week,” Corless adds, noting that a Sunday brunch menu is on the way. “It’s a complete re-concept, which is such an exciting process, especially with somebody as creative as Todd.”
While Corless has led an overhaul of El Paseo’s operations and front-of-house team, Shoberg has steered his kitchen toward a menu that incorporates an array of local produce, meat and seafood. He’s already showcasing his widely known style with dishes like a daily risotto and a pork chop with figs and blue cheese.
The second major component to Shoberg’s decision was his realization that after his incredible busyness over the prior two years, El Paseo was bringing him back where he belonged. From his lakeside hometown of Grand Haven, Mich. and his multiple stops in Albuquerque, N.M. to a stint in Boulder, Colo., Shoberg has made a habit of settling down in places that belong on postcards. But Marin County has stuck with him.
A former professional mountain biker who nabbed a silver medal at the national collegiate championships and went to the Olympic trials in 2000, Shoberg has long since fallen for cycling on and around Mount Tam. “Everything that I’ve succeeded at and failed at in my life brought me to be at this place, here in Marin,” Shoberg says. “And to be here to raise my family (he’s got a daughter in kindergarten and another on the way) – it’s amazing – it feels perfect.”
Corless says Shoberg “fits like a glove,” and that their management styles are a great match, helping them make bold changes in sync. “He’s also such an operations guy that he sees the whole picture,” she says. “And his creativity doesn’t overshadow the whole operation.”
“This is where my heart is – this is where I belong,” he adds.
The 411: El Paseo is open for dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 5:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturdays. RESERVATIONS & MORE INFO. As has been a tradition at El Paseo under Hagar’s ownership, the restaurant is hosting a series of Dine of a Cause events whereby the restaurant donates 20 percent (10% from the restaurant, matched by a donation from the Hagar Family Foundation) of the evening’s proceeds to a designated organization: Ritter Center (Oct. 11), Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity (Nov. 8) and SF-Marin Food Bank (Dec. 13).