Each month, we ask one of San Diego's chefs:
What do you do and how do you eat when you're out of the kitchen?
Live: Sorrento Valley
Work: Little Italy
How Long: San Diego native
Scripps Ranch native Giselle Wellman left San Diego several years ago to eventually become LA’s youngest executive chef. Since her stint on last year’s season of Top Chef she’s returned to her home town and joined Little Italy’s scorching dining scene with the new restaurant, Pacific Standard.
What kinds of meals do you eat at home?
I love simple food, like grilled chicken and vegetables. Since I work most days, when I try to keep a lot of food in my fridge, it tends to go bad before I eat it. So, if it’s a day off and I’m going to cook at home, I’ll go to the market in the morning and grill it that same evening. Otherwise, I try to have stuff at home that’ll keep, like rice cakes, and cheese to make quesadillas. And any night I get home late, if I’m hungry, I have a peanut butter sandwich. PBJ sandwiches are the best!
When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?
I just moved back here, and then put a lot of time into opening up a restaurant, so I still feel like I’m finding my way in this city. I love Cucina Urbana — it’s one of my favorite restaurants in town. I like all the restaurants in Little Italy. I love that you can start with drinks at Ironside, then walk over to Herb&Wood. I like that Little Italy has that to offer. Like, Hey, let’s just meet in little Italy and see what we feel like.
I also love hole in the wall Korean food, so I’m looking for places like that. And I love Sushi Ota going back before I left town. It’s a place you can even go by yourself, and get so much out of interacting with the sushi chef.
Where do you go for a drink?
I’m a cocktail girl. I know in San Diego, it’s all about the beer, but to me there’s nothing like a great cocktail. Especially with mezcal and tequila! Like I mentioned, Ironside has an amazing cocktail program.
How do you like to spend your days off?
I’m a very family and friends kind of girl, so I like to catch up with important people in my life. That’s a major reason I came home. My sister has two kids and I love to see them. We’re a backyard BBQ kind of family, so usually we get together in the backyard and cook.
I also like to spend time outdoors, going to the beach and getting in the water, riding my bike, doing yoga. We have a really stressful job, and I really like to spend my weekends connecting with nature, getting outside as much as possible.
What made you decide to become a chef?
I’m Jewish-Mexican, so every traditional thing we did revolved around food. My parents used to do shabbat dinner every Friday and I loved helping my mom in the kitchen.
It came together when summer after high school, when I realized my biggest concern Monday morning was what we were making for shabbat on Friday. My aunt was going to culinary school, and brought home a brochure. I’d never really thought about becoming a chef before that. This was before the whole Food Network celebrity chef thing, so it was like this door opened up, like I can do this for a living?
What is your favorite thing about the San Diego culinary scene?
So far my favorite part is that it’s such a community. Coming from LA, everybody is out on their own and there’s a lot of ego. But everyone has been really welcoming here. I’ve been going to events, and chefs come up to introduce themselves and welcome me. I think it’s really important to stick together as a culinary community.
What kind of change do you hope to see?
I left here eight years ago because I felt I couldn’t find the culinary world here. I came back because I could see it’s starting to blossom. With everyone working together, I think there’s a chance to see San Diego become a culinary destination, and not just be about the Zoo and SeaWorld.