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La Valencia kitchen in midst of remodel

If you’ve noticed some changes while passing by the La Valencia hotel, the new general manager says it’s all for a good reason.

Where there used to be a patio dining area and a large ficus tree now sits a shiny temporary kitchen surrounded by potted trees and plants that is being used to service the hotel while the old kitchen is being remodeled, said David Friederich.

He assumed the top job at the landmark La Jolla hotel in July, along with responsibility for the Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa in Rancho Santa Fe, when Auberge Resorts was hired to operate the properties.

The kitchen replacement is part of a three-year improvement plan that is being designed to “revitalize and put the energy back into” the 82-year-old Pink Lady, Friederich explained, noting that they are paying particular attention to preserving the 113-room hotel’s historic past.

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The “several million dollar” kitchen is only the first step in a plan that will not impact its architecture but will “capture the texture and quality of today’s materials” as they work their way through other changes.

This is the fourth historic hotel Friederich has managed.

The aging kitchen not only needed to be updated, but the floor was giving way under it, he said. As part of the remodeling, the floor will be lowered to gain some added space.

As plans developed, they realized the large, very old ficus tree that was the centerpiece of the courtyard was being held up by the building, damaging the adjoining roof and coming through the wall.

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“There was no way to save it,” he said, noting that an arborist came in and examined the tree before the decision was made. “If it was 50-50 we would have saved it.”

By installing what amounts to four conjoined “trailers” equipped with the latest in stoves, ovens, grills and cleaning equipment, La Valencia staff can continue to serve their guests, Friederich said.

However, the well-known Mediterranean Room has been cut in half in order to accommodate space for construction offices and room service as well as to separate it from the temporary kitchen.

“But we’re still open,” Friederich said, noting that the ocean views are still the same.

With the economy slacking and their guest count down by about 7 percent, he said, the time was right to start the remodeling “so it’s not an inconvenience to more of our guests,” the general manager said.

“By the time the summer comes, we’ll be ready.”