A chef with San Luis Obispo County roots is lighting up the local restaurant scene.
Brian Collins has opened Ember, which serves food with Mediterranean influences, primarily rustic Italian, as well as French, Spanish and Greek. The Arroyo Grande eatery, located at 1200 E. Grand Ave. operates in the space formerly occupied by SLO Down Pub and has 25 employees.
It welcomed its first customers Feb. 5.
“My big overall goal was to make a really good neighborhood restaurant where everyone felt welcome — kids, families and people on dates,” said Collins, who completely renovated the exterior and interior.
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Collins, who grew up in Arroyo Grande, said he always dreamed of opening a restaurant. A 2000 graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Collins trained and worked for six years at Chez Panisse, the Berkeley restaurant owned by renowned chef Alice Waters. He was also executive chef at Lido restaurant in Shell Beach and chef at Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos.
Ember, which features an open kitchen, Italian wood-burning oven and rotisserie grill, offers hand-made dishes, including flatbread pizzas, pastas and fresh market appetizers.
Collins, who declined to disclose how much he and his wife, Harmony, have invested in their new venture, said the restaurant has received a warm welcome from guests so far. “I would say that it couldn’t have gone any better,” he said.