with Debbie Thomas & Chef Libry 

When I heard amazing reviews from friends about the exciting new dishes Chef Libry Darusman was creating over at Thomas Hill Organics in downtown Paso Robles, I knew this would be the perfect place to visit for my next entrée column. So, I called my publishers, Nic and Hayley Mattson, and asked them to join me for lunch. We invited Shannon D’Acquisto of the Cancer Support Community, and wow – we had a great afternoon filled with great food and great people!

THO Owner Debbie Thomas was enthusiastic about hosting us and was excited to introduce us to Chef Libry. He joined the Thomas Hill Organics team in mid-August, creating new lunch and dinner menus that honor tried-and-true favorites while introducing fans of THO to his new and innovative culinary creations. 

“Libry’s food is fabulous and everyone just loves him,” Debbie said. “He is very complex in his menu and puts all sorts of ingredients together; he’s just so creative. Except for some local favorites such as the Black Lentil Tacos, Cubano Sandwich, Painted Hills Grass-Fed Burger, and the Warm Grain Chicken Salad, the lunch and dinner menu is totally new.”

Debbie set the standard years ago for using local purveyors and focusing on housemade ingredients, and Chef Libry has stepped right in to these practices with his exotic, unique flavor combinations.

“Before moving up here, I knew a little bit about Paso, especially the wines, but I really wanted to get submerged in the wines I don’t know about and pair them with wonderful foods,” Chef Libry said. “Being new to this area, I wanted to change the menu up a bit but still make it approachable and safe. I want to gain the trust of the local crowd before slowly doing a bit more elevated cuisine.”

Chef Libry brings a lifetime of cooking and traveling to Paso Robles. He was born in Indonesia, lived throughout Europe as a youth, and was exposed to French and German cultures as well as Michelin Star restaurants. He trained at the California Art Institute, worked with Chef Theo Schoenegger of Sinatra’s Restaurant in Las Vegas, at Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles alongside Chef Mark Gold, was the executive chef for Roomforty, and gained additional culinary experience through numerous events: the Emmys, Golden Globes, and private tasting dinners for dignitaries.

“Fresh pasta is something I’ve done for a while and I want to bring more in here; it’s something I’m passionate about,” he said. “We make our own pasta here at Thomas Hill, our own crème fraiche, our own butter and ricotta cheese. Basically, we try to cook as much from scratch as possible.”

That captured our attention right away and, before long, Chef Libry started bringing out some of menu selections with the help of our attentive and friendly server, Christine.

He started us off with the Loo Loo Farms Heirloom Tomato Salad – with pea tendrils, pickled stone fruit, house dressing of opal basil vinaigrette, balsamic caviar for a fun texture, topped with housemade ricotta cheese and crushed cornbread croutons. 

Nic: This is a tremendously well-done mixture of flavors. All of the different ingredients that went into this are spectacular – you can taste each one – and they pair up so nicely. It’s like a savory trip!

Meagan: I agree, Nic. Tasting each item individually is wonderful and yet, together, they make this somewhat simple dish just amazing!

Shannon: The dressing is awesome; it’s not overpowering and gives just a touch of flavor to the fresh ingredients. And that touch of balsamic caviar – wow! 

Next, we were treated to the THO Ceviche – rock shrimp, black cod, mashed avocado, house crème fraiche, fennel, yuzu, puffed rice, zucchini, corn, pomegranate, and a house blend herb powder.

Hayley: This presentation is so beautiful, I almost don’t want to dig in…but I will! These flavors are simply fabulous and I love the way everything is so fresh and delicious. 

We also enjoyed two new samplings from the dinner menu. Chef Libry prepared The Sweet Corn House-Made Ravioli with beurre fondue, housemade ricotta cheese, corn, garlic and shallot confit, herbs, olive oil powder, and house made duck bacon – and boy, was it a huge hit with all of us. And the 8-ounce Black Cod Filet is a must-have with its brioche bread puree, charred scallion vinaigrette, summer squash confit, and
horseradish ash.

 “Chef Libry has a really good staff in place and they love the fact they that are doing really upscale-type of food,” Debbie said. “We have had a great reaction from the community and everyone seems to be enjoying the changes. One of my favorites is the Bone Marrow Crusted Rib-Eye on the dinner menu – it’s so good! But, really, I just love everything!” 

Be sure to save room for dessert! We were treated to a fresh Plum Cobbler with an oatmeal cookie-type of topping, served with vanilla Leo Leo Gelato, and topped with some honeycomb and marigold flower petals – wow!

And the exciting news is…THO is adding a dessert bar! What’s that, you ask? Stop by 1313 Park St. in Paso Robles and found out for yourself…and be sure to bring a friend or two.