Former CdM and A Restaurant Chef Jonathan Blackford Launches New Dining Concept

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Chef Jonathan Blackford

Restaurants in Orange County, and around the country, have faced numerous challenges over the past five months since the coronavirus forced some to close and others to pivot and offer take-out or patio dining, often at reduced capacity.

Most restaurants in Newport Beach have remained open with patio dining and some form of to-go menus, although a few at first temporarily closed to regroup and plan their next move.

A Restaurant and CdM restaurant, part of the River Jetty Restaurant Group headed by Joseph “McG” Nichol and Jordan Otterbein, had one additional challenge served to them: their longtime Executive Chef Jonathan Blackford left to work on his own dining concept.

“We are incredibly grateful for Chef Jon’s dedication to our restaurants for nearly a decade,” said McG. “Through his food he gave our guests the elevated dining experience which they have come to expect from A Restaurant and CdM, and we will honor this legacy. We wish him the very best in his career.”

River Jetty brought in Chef Alfonso Ramirez – a veteran of the Patina Group who most recently headed the kitchen at Catal Restaurant in Downtown Disney, which closed for several months – to help with the transition.

Otterbein noted that he also has “incredible Chefs de Cuisine, Roberto Gomez at A Restaurant and Elvis Morales at CdM, who have been instrumental in the success of our food over the years.”

But back to Blackford. I had been curious as to his next venture. My curiosity is now answered.

I learned this week that Chef Blackford will open a new concept on October 1 called Fork & Knife on 17th Street in Costa Mesa, a sandwich-throw from Newport Beach. October 1 is my birthday, so Fork & Knife might be on my dining short list, although Fork & Knife is not a typical restaurant.

According to a press release about Fork & Knife, Chef Blackford’s endeavor will not include a dining room or formal seating for dine-in business, but rather focus on family meals for daily pick-up, grab-and-go prepared foods, and a high-end market with many house-made items.

“Fork & Knife is actually three concepts in one and I believe that it speaks to current dining habits and what the public wants right now,” said Chef Blackford. “It has always been my goal to open a restaurant of my own, but the timing isn’t right for a full-service dining experience. What people want right now is a neighborhood place that offers fully prepared dinners, quick meals to carryout and quality products that you would find at a gourmet market – that’s what Fork & Knife aims to deliver.”

I’m told that Fork & Knife will offer inspired, seasonal, from-scratch fully prepared dishes including sandwiches and pastas, as well as retail-focused items such as fresh-made pastas, jams, sauces, dressings and other items. The market will also feature many of Chef Blackford’s favorite artisan products, from a selection of olive oils, to vinegars and grains.

The culinary focus of Fork & Knife will be a daily hot menu that can ordered with advance notice. Chef Blackford will also showcase a hand-picked selection of steaks from the best ranches around the world, which will be complemented with fresh seafood options.

“I want to serve as an extension to the home kitchen by providing the freshest and most flavorful meals and dishes,” explained Chef Blackford. “There is nothing more comforting than a home-cooked meal enjoyed with family and friends, but with time being the biggest challenge in our lives, we’re handling the heavy lifting so those in our community don’t have to sacrifice quality.”

According to the press release, partnering with Chef Blackford to present the concept is Doug Garn, best known as the former President and CEO of Quest Software. When the company was sold to Dell, it freed Garn to focus on several personal investments and ventures, including the opening of A Restaurant. It was there that he, along with wife, Julie Garn, created a tremendous working relationship with Chef Blackford. The team has reunited to bring its first restaurant concept together to fruition with Fork & Knife. Overseeing all design and non-food merchandising for the concept is Chef Blackford’s wife, Kristi, who will also assist in-house regularly.

Fork & Knife will be located at 401 E. 17th Street, Suite A2, in Costa Mesa. For more information about the restaurant menu, hours and reservations, please visit

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