When an organization has two leaders, power struggles aren’t just expected—they’re practically inevitable. But the partnership between Rancho Bernardo restaurant Cork & Craft and adjacent brewery Abnormal Beer Co. has never followed convention.
“Chefs, in general, kind of have an ego,” comments Cork & Craft executive chef Scott Cannon without a trace of irony. “But I like the collaboration we have between us as a team. We're like a family.”
“I had seven or eight years working in kitchens, [and] I went to culinary school right out of high school, so I understand all the ins and outs of the restaurant,” explains Molina. “It makes it a lot easier to not butt heads.”
Cannon also sees their contrasting personalities benefit the relationship. “We’re completely opposite—I’m serious and he’s outgoing.” Molina chuckles and agrees: “I’m definitely that easygoing, laissez-faire goofball. But when it comes down to business, I completely flip a switch.”
Years of kitchen training imparted a sense of preparation and organization for Molina. “I think that mentality is a shared thing both of us have, even with my mellow personality. We both have that drive, that hustle. We just want to get stuff done.”
That “stuff” ranges far beyond standard lunch and dinner service. Quarterly beer dinners are meticulously planned far in advance in order to showcase the unique relationship between the sister companies, as well as providing an opportunity for guest breweries and chefs to mesh their individual ideas into the events.
“All the dinners are 100 percent planned together,” says Cannon.
Cannon’s vision at Cork & Craft is one of sustainability and seasonality, which, despite being increasingly buzzword-y, is still not the standard for restaurants pursuing the “refined comfort food” model. Not only is consumer awareness becoming more important in the hospitality industry, it’s also a foundation for Molina to play off of when brewing beers to pair with Cannon’s dishes. Drinkers and diners want to know where their food and beer comes from, and when both are created and plated just steps away from one another, it’s easy for patrons to enjoy a sense of responsible consumption.
The unusually short distance between the two workspaces means the teams overlap on occasion, a situation both men approach with ease. When the brewery’s canning line needs some extra hands, Cannon jumps in to keep production cranking. Likewise, Molina and his crew have washed dishes, served food, and traded staff when the kitchen needs a boost.
“We definitely help out wherever needed. We’re only a wall away from each other, so it’s natural,” says Molina.
This synergistic setup is part of the reason Molina returned to the hospitality industry after working a long stint in retail post-culinary school. It’s also what keeps the two leaders in sync while managing their individual processes.
“It’s very special,” says Cannon of their relationship. Molina echoes in unison. “We’re here for them, and they’re here for us.”
The Cork and Craft / Abnormal Co.
16990 Via Tazon (off of Rancho Bernardo Road)
*Order Food and Beer to-go at: thecorkandcraft.com