Swap Sacramento for Maui? Who would make such a move? Philip Wang is. The executive chef at Mason's since the restaurant opened in the fall of 2005, Wang is leaving for Maui, where he's teaming up with celebrated chef/restaurateur Peter Merriman to open Merriman's Maui at Kapalua.
"I loved working for the brothers," said Wang of his time at Mason's, owned by siblings Mason, Curtis and Alan Wong, "but I have this opportunity to do my own thing." He also will join Merriman in building another new restaurant on Kaua'i, not scheduled to open until about a year from now.
At Mason's, meanwhile, John Gurnee, who has been Wang's sous chef since the restaurant opened, is the new executive chef. A Sacramento native - Jesuit High School, class of 1995 - Gurnee got his formal cooking training at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and worked for Paragary's Restaurant Group before joining Mason's. He's bringing aboard another Paragary's veteran, Rob Lind, as his sous chef.
Gurnee says he will retain Wang's contemporary style of California and New American cooking, but he is working on retooling menus in a move to lower prices. "We will continue the same great food with the same pristine ingredients, but we'll also try to reduce prices to attract a wider audience with the economy the way it is right now," says Gurnee.