Guests of considerable means and courage are cordially invited to join three-Michelin star chef Joshua Skenes at his remote hunting lodge, where “private dinners, fly fishing excursions, hosted travel, [and] foraging and grilling master classes” will be offered. The founder of SF restaurants Saison and the more recent Angler (whose back dining room is decorated with taxidermied animals) recently announced details of Skenes Ranch, a project he’s hinted at in hushed tones over the past few years.
Now with a permanent location for the ranch (in the past, it’s popped up quietly in Sonoma) and a new chef to guide Saison, Skenes is retreating to the woods and fielding requests to join him. No prices, no dates: Just blind hope and trust. Maybe bring your own flashlight?
The lodge’s whereabouts aren’t specified in the announcement, but Skenes Ranch is somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State according to a representative for the restaurant group. At past pop-up ranch events, the bill for two people at dinner, with drinks and service, plus tax, was $2,172.50 at minimum. A menu included 90-day aged wild bison.
“Skenes Ranch is a working ranch and farm, a ‘restaurant,’ a hunting & fishing lodge, a lab, a school, a forum for innovators and collaborators improving how we grow and raise food,” writes Skenes, who supplied those scare quotes around the word “restaurant” himself.
It’s “hopefully a model that reminds us to look at food as vitality, as nature intended, and to try and shrink our circle of consumption.”
Originally from Florida, Skenes is an avid hunter and outdoor sportsman known for mixing and matching camouflage and chef’s whites. His obsession is with what he’s called “natural cuisine,” and both Saison and Angler are all about cooking over wood fire. 10 years ago, Skenes opened Saison as a backyard pop-up in the Mission before formalizing as a tasting menu restaurant in SoMa. Angler, the chef’s larger, a la carte restaurant, opened last fall. It’s also a vehicle for growth: Another Angler is bound for Los Angeles, and a third for Seattle.
In his recent announcement, Skenes notes that he can pursue Skenes Ranch in part because he’s handing the reigns at Saison to Laurent Gras, a living legend who’s run several three-Michelin star kitchens. Gras entered the Saison kitchen in June, and is now executive chef and managing partner of the restaurant. Skenes will remain an owner of Saison as the hospitality group grows.
With Saison, “we’ve been fortunate to have achieved tremendous success,” Skenes writes. That hasn’t come without difficulty and questions: A recent lawsuit alleges that Skenes misused investor funds and failed to repay a loan; a representative called the suit “frivolous.”
Putting Saison’s success aside, “evolution has long been overdue and unfulfilled potential has haunted my dreams,” Skenes says. Now that potential can haunt yours dreams, too. Requests for invitation to Skenes Ranch can be made here.