Chef Craig Hopson grew up in a small Australian town called Geraldton, around 250 miles north of Perth.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was going surfing all the time,” said Hopson who was recently appointed executive chef at the Sea Level Restaurant at Shade Redondo Beach. “I thought it would be cool if I could get a job at night time and go surfing all day long. That worked for the first couple of years.”

Hopson found a restaurant job that allowed him that flexibility, but he soon realized his affinity for cooking. He switched gears from surfing and took four years of training in Australia to become a chef. After working in Sydney, he decided to give Europe a try and landed in Geneva. His next stop was Paris where he worked with household names in the food industry.

“People always talked about food. It was a big part of their lives and you could buy the best ingredients from small stores on the street… butchers and bakers,” Hopson said. “I was really immersed in food culture.”

In 2000, Hopson made the move to United States where he first worked at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans before transferring to Philadelphia. Then he made New York home for 15 years.

“That's where I got a lot of my experience,” Hopson said of New York, where he was the executive chef at Le Cirque for four years, among other restaurants.

In 2015, Hopson said he “wanted a change of lifestyle,” so he moved to Los Angeles, where his first apartment was in Venice.

He opened The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker in West Hollywood and was the executive chef at The Farmhouse before replacing Chef Aaron Robbins at Sea Level Restaurant, which is located in the boutique hotel Shade in the Redondo Beach Harbor.

Hopson said the Sea Level menu is still a work in progress, but he has made significant changes to the nighttime dishes and making improvements to get their pizzas “popping.”

“There is room for improvement on the rest of the menus,” Hopson said.

Still an avid surfer and active in the Surfrider Foundation, Hopson's main goal is the make the menu more seafood oriented. Some of his new dishes include olive oil poached halibut and grilled Spanish octopus.

The Sea Level is located at 655 N. Harbor Drive.

For more information, visit http://rb.shadehotel.com/dine/.

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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