by Tiffany Maleshefski

Uber-chef George Morrone is best known for helping Aqua and Fifth Floor become the culinary powerhouses they are today. Both boast highly coveted and damn-hard-to-get Michelin stars (two and one stars, respectively) and are fixtures on Michael Bauer’s Top 100. In other words, the only direction to go after you’ve worked at these two restaurants is up.

Which is why Morrone shocked many when he decided to step down to see if he could bring his culinary mojo to the Cliff House. See, Morrone took over as chef de cuisine at Sutro’s at the Cliff House, the tourist-trap dining space at the edge of the city, complete with jarring views of the Pacific. Having Morrone at the Cliff House is like asking The Real Housewives of Orange County to wear knee-length dresses: a very unlikely match. Moreover, transforming one of the city’s best loved, notoriously bad restaurants into a nationally recognized, fine-dining establishment means you’re either crazy confident, crazy arrogant, or just crazy.

We asked Morrone to explain himself.

Given your background, why did you accept a position at such a destination, landmark, touristy restaurant?

After having consulted here for two or three months, I really liked the people that were here, especially Chef Brian [O’Connor], Chef Kevin [J.Weber]. I liked the enthusiasm I saw with the staff. And after getting to know the Cliff House after consulting here, that it being such a landmark, and after enjoying the view for those three months, I said, why shouldn’t it have good food.