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?


Leyla Javadov  Chef/Owner,  Café 21,  http://www.cafe-21.com
Live: Pacific Beach •  Work: Gaslamp + University Heights •  How Long: 15 years

What kinds of meals do you eat at home?
Our family is from Azerbaijan and there is an old Russian Proverb that says, “Eat your breakfast alone, eat your lunch with your friend, give your dinner to your enemy.”  Meaning that breakfast should never be skipped and that it should be the main course throughout the day. For breakfast, our family likes eggs with tomato and eggs with greens, both of which are served at Café 21 and accompanied with assorted cheese, house-made sourdough bread, fresh greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and honey.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?
We like to go to places where the food is locally sourced, free of antibiotics and hormones. Some favorite restaurants include True Food Kitchen, Prep Kitchen and Tender Greens. This is something of importance to us, and  it is a huge reason why we pride ourselves in only serving this type of food ourselves at Cafe 21. 

Where do you go for a drink?
Work and home keeps us extremely busy so getting out for a drink or date night can be tough. When we do get the opportunity, we mostly enjoy entertaining at home and mixing up a cocktail for us, and friends and family. 

How do you like to spend your days off?
After a long week at work, I love spending my days off with my family. Reconnecting with them allows me to relax and reminds me why we work so hard. 

What made you decide to become a chef? 
Being passionate about where our food was being sourced and making sure that it was healthy gave me the desire to pursue a career in the culinary industry. Making sure that my family and guests had the opportunity to eat healthy, tasty and nutritious food. 

What is your favorite thing about the San Diego culinary scene?
The growth and different types of cuisines available in San Diego now. Lately there have been many new restaurant openings, which is great for San Diego as now we have a great variety to choose from. 

What kind of change do you hope to see?
I would encourage chefs and cooks to take the time to learn where their food is being sourced. If we purchase ingredients that are organic and properly raised, then our meals prepared will be healthier and better for those consuming it.


Jeremy Scullin  Executive Chef,  Kindred,  http://barkindred.com
Live: South Park •  Work: South Park •  How Long: 2 years

What kinds of meals do you eat at home?
My favorite meals to cook at home are holiday feasts, like thanksgiving and Christmas. They’re comforting and nostalgic. I love roasting seitan with port wine jus, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?Amoracito Corazon is hands down my favorite. The food is amazing and the family that owns it always make you feel at home. I also frequent Tiger, Tiger, Bahn Thai and Pop Pie Co.

Where do you go for a drink?
Although I love getting a cocktail at Polite Provisions or a beer at Modern Times, it’s rare for me to go out boozing these days. Coffee is my true vice. Luckily our neighborhood is full of great places for any mood, Rebecca’s oozes warmth, Grant’s is fast and consistent, Dark Horse has exceptional beans and baristas.

How do you like to spend your days off?
I’m spending time with my seven month old son, Roux. Cooking for him is my greatest joy. Veggie mashes, pancakes, and of course pasta are favorites. Despite thirteen years in the kitchen, I think he still enjoys my wife’s food more!

What made you decide to become a chef?
I started as a dishwasher and on day one I realized what a thrilling place the professional kitchen was. It was me versus the servers, churning out clean dishes as fast as possible appealed to my competitive nature. Within a few days I was the fastest dishwasher they had. On my first day the Sous Chef asked me what he could make me for lunch, offering anything off the menu: burgers, pasta, salad, etc. Sheepishly I asked if I could have French fries. He laughed and said yes. That sealed the deal, the job was fun and exciting and free French fries were involved. I was hooked.

What is your favorite thing about the San Diego culinary scene?
The best thing about the culinary scene here is its growth and potential. It still feels undiscovered, and there’s impressive new businesses opening constantly. I like how unpretentious it is. San Diego is moving away from stuffy old fashioned dining and newer places are fun, welcoming, and innovative, and the food, beverages and service are high quality.

What kind of change do you hope to see?
It’s already happening to a degree but I would love to continue to see emerging neighborhoods becoming culinary hot spots. When top restaurants open outside of Downtown, Little Italy and Gaslamp, that’s progress in my mind.


Carl Schroeder  Proprietor and Chef,  MARKET Restaurant + Bar, Banker's Hill Restaurant + Bar,  http://marketdelmar.com http://bankershillsd.com
Live: North County •  Work: Del Mar, Bankers Hill •  How Long: San Diego native

What kinds of meals do you eat at home?
When I’m at home, I like to make very clean and somewhat simpler versions of the same types of dishes I make at MARKET Restaurant + Bar. I have a mesquite grill that I really enjoy using, and I eat a lot of local fish and veggies.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?
I like to go out to eat for things that I don’t ever cook at home or at the restaurant. So it’s usually a really good ethnic restaurant of some sort. I have a Peruvian spot that I really like and I go often to Alforon, a Lebanese restaurant by San Diego State. Their food is fantastic and they use spice incredibly well.

Where do you go for a drink?
I really enjoy a good beer more than a cocktail, so I like to go to the local breweries. I always drop into Societe whenever I’m up that way.

How do you like to spend your days off?
I try to spend as much time as I can with my kids when I’m out of the kitchen. The restaurant industry can be difficult on the “family unit,” so I take advantage of long mornings and down-time with my family.

What made you decide to become a chef?
Growing up, I was an avid fisherman and we always ate what we brought home. Even as a kid, I would try to find new ways to prepare things and I liked to look at cookbooks for inspiration.

What is your favorite thing about the San Diego culinary scene?
It has been great to be a part of the burgeoning local food scene. I like that there are a lot more chef-owned restaurants in San Diego than there were 10 years ago.

What kind of change do you hope to see?
I hope that we continue to see the same growth as we have been experiencing… keep the small indies coming. I think that we can honestly say now that you can eat just as well in San Diego as you can in other major food cities.

Photo by Martin Mann


Giselle Wellman  Executive Chef,  Pacific Standard,  http://www.pacificstandardrestaurant.com
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.


Nick Nappi  Executive Chef,  Bar One,  http://https://chefnicknappi.com
Live: South Park •  Work: Little Italy •  How Long: 4 years

What kinds of meals do you eat at home?
I still believe it’s important to cook at home. I know a lot of chefs and cooks that make beautiful food at work and go home and eat crap. My wife loves anything Italian so I take my time at home to perfect my craft. Homemade ravioli and different types of pastas are always an option.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?
We don’t eat out much, but when we do I have a few go-to spots. Tiger Tiger and Panama 66 are a couple of my favorites in San Diego. Chef Sharon Wilson is killing it! I love the “divey” spots though. Rocky’s for a burger and — I know it’s a sensitive subject in San Diego — my favorite spot for a breakfast burrito is Ramiro’s in PB.

I live in the badass, party filled, crazy town aka South Park. LOL. I love this little area. downtown South Park is so cool. My wife loves the shops and we can’t get enough Mariscos Nine Seas fish tacos.

Where do you go for a drink?
Anywhere that has a good bourbon selection. Seriously, I’m not picky at all. Just turn the music down a little. Shit, I think I’m getting old.

How do you like to spend your days off?
Sleep, sleep and sleep. I’m a lucky guy. I married my best friend, I have some of the best homies in the world, and my family is off the hook cool, so when I’m not sleeping I’m spending as much time with all of them as possible. This industry doesn’t give us much time to be around the ones we love so it’s important to squeeze every drop out of the time we do have. Ha! Stupid cooking pun!

What made you decide to become a chef?
The most satisfaction I have ever had is when I feed someone and they tell me how much they loved what I’ve made. What’s more than that is when they tell me how much they enjoyed what I’ve made for them the next day, or the next day. That’s why I decided to become a chef. Connecting to people through food is an amazing feeling and I plan on doing it until my body says stop.

What is your favorite thing about the San Diego culinary scene?
My favorite thing about the SD culinary scene is that there actually is a culinary scene. This city used to be so far behind but now is a complete contender with the rest of the country, and isn’t showing any signs of stopping. I’m so humbled and proud to be a part of this city’s culinary movement.

What kind of change do you hope to see?
I hope to see more opportunities for aspiring restaurant owners. There is a small handful of restaurant groups in this city and they have taken over. No offense to any of them but you can taste the rapid growth and lack of passion. The aspiring chef — who has been dreaming of opening a small place with awesome, quality ingredients — has an unmatched drive and passion that will only be shown on his/her plates.

 


Gerry Torres  Owner,  City Tacos, Tostadas,  http://citytacossd.com http://tostadasnorthpark.com
Work: North Park • 

What kinds of meals do you eat at home?
My wife does the cooking at home. She prepares traditional Mexican fare with a gourmet twist: aguas frescas, fruit salads and the occasional grown up tapas like angulas or patés.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?
I like going to new restaurants and experiencing different takes on food. Most recently Bracero, Patio on Goldfinch, Villa Marina in Tijuana, La Corriente also in TJ.

Where do you go for a drink?
I’m a simple man — a cold beer with the wife will suffice.

How do you like to spend your days off?
Days off? What are those? Ha ha. When possible, we take mini vacations far away, usually places with great food.

What made you decide to become a restaurateur?
Because of the love for food. It makes me happy to brighten lives through the shared experience, and to interact with real people on a daily basis.

What is your favorite thing about the San Diego culinary scene?
I believe San Diego is a great place to live if you love food. The scene is vibrant and young — perhaps even a bit risqué and trendsetting!

What kind of change do you hope to see?
I love when people experiment with food and re-invent traditional dishes and your cant wait to try the next great bite!

Chade White  Top Chef Season 13 Contestant,  Previously chef/owner of La Justina, Común Kitchen + Tavern,  http://chefchadwhite.com/


Chef Chad White left San Diego in December, closing down his restaurant and returning to his home town Spokane to start a new place. We can still watch Chad rep America’s Finest City on the current season of
Top Chef, and wish him luck. Before he left, he shared some thoughts with Urbanist on food, creativity, and the local dining scene  —  and maybe a little insight why a talented chef might move away from SD. Imagine he’s speaking in past tense…

What kinds of meals do you eat at home?
In most cases I’m not the cook at home. My girlfriend Niya is the queen of our kitchen. Mostly traditional Bulgarian dishes like palachinki, moussaka, and kyufte. However, when I do cook it’s usually rustic, comforting and healthy — grilling, smoking, roasting whole chickens, charring vegetables or making childhood favorites like grilled cheese, pasta, and BBQ.

When you were out of the kitchen in San Diego, where did you like to dine out? Any favorites?
Typically you can find me scurrying across the border into Tijuana. I’m a street food junkie and pop up mostly at Wash Mobile for tortas, Taco Nazo for tripas and suadero, or a sit down at El Taller for their wood fired roasted beets and local goat cheese from Valle de Guadalupe.

When in San Diego you can find me bouncing around a number of ramen shops like Raki Raki on Convoy, Tajima in Hillcrest and Underbelly in North Park. Or diving mouth first in the a triple threat at Carnitas Snack Shack!

Where do you go for a drink?
Well I quit drinking two years ago this January, only because I was too good at it and I felt I needed to humble myself.

But the watering holes I like best are Fairweather, Noble Experiment, Lion’s Share and Sycamore Den, all of which can make me a great dealer’s choice, non-alchy concoction.

How do you like to spend your days off?
Relaxing with the kids. Well, kinda… My girlfriend, kids and I tend to hang out at the pool, join our friends for a day on their boat, eating at restaurants or cooking at home as a family.

If no one is around, I’ll get super lazy and nap like an old country hound on a porch.

What made you decide to become a chef?
On 9/11 I joined the U.S. Navy to serve and defend my country. The only specification I qualified for was to be a cook. At first I hated cooking — I wasn’t shown the side of cooking I was looking forward to seeing. It was popping ready-made pizzas in the oven and opening a arsenal of #10 cans over cooked veggies.

I was an artist growing up, following in my grandmother’s footsteps, and couldn’t see the connection at the time between food and art — until my mother was able to get my attention with what I see now as a no-brainer.

Mom: Chad, what do you put the food on?

Me: A white plate about 10 inches in circumference.

Mom: Chad, don’t you see that’s a canvas? Paint on it with food!

Me: [Lightbulb]

At that moment I found out just how smart my mom was, or just how blind, stubborn and close minded I was. She followed through and sent me books from chefs who used bright colors in their cooking. Bobby Flay was one of them as well as José Andres. I was hooked. Although I couldn’t cook like this in the Navy right away, I could practice at home until I was given the opportunity.

What is your favorite thing about the San Diego culinary scene?
It’s evolving each day, slow as a snail but the movement is there.

What kind of change do you hope to see?
A better dining culture…

Our dining scene is jaded. I’ve recently done some traveling both out of country, in and out of state, just to see how our food and dining culture stands up to other cities.

We are not far off from other cities, other than the choices and originality are limited. There are some great restaurants here, and very talented chefs held back from performing to their potential to provide great quality, compared to SF and LA. The difference here is our community will not allow the culinary scene to advance organically. It has to be forced, and with that comes risk — a risk most cannot afford, a risk almost not worth taking. If diners are not willing to take a risk, chefs can’t take risks.

I’m talking about supporting chefs who strive to make San Diego a more local-food secure environment. If you’re to kill an animal for food, show respect and eat the whole thing.

Also, support the freestanding restaurants. And if/when they fail to meet your expectations, respectfully inform them. Allow them to grow, invest in them so someday they can repay you with amazing food and service. We need this so we can keep the great chefs of San Diego, versus losing them to other cities willing to support them.


Johan Engman  Owner of Rise and Shine Hospitality Group,  Fig Tree Café, Breakfast Republic,  http://figtreeeatery.com http://breakfastrepublicca.com


What kinds of meals do you eat at home?
I rarely cook. I usually get takeout from either my own restaurants. Also Thai or sushi.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?
I like to find little neighborhood eateries. I like Piacere Mio in South Park, Brazen BBQ in Hillcrest or Big Front Door on Park Blvd. for sandwiches.

Where do you go for a drink?
Seven Grand in North Park is great if you want a cocktail made by a true artist. I also like Prohibition in the Gaslamp.

How do you like to spend your days off?
I love, love, love to travel. In a couple weeks I’m going on a two month long trip: Italy (wine tasting in Tuscany for 10 days); Corfu, Greece (workin’ on the ol’ tan); Bucharest, Romania (visiting Dracula in Transylvania); Östersund, Sweden (visiting friends and family in my hometown); Nairobi, Kenya (five day safari); Dubai (gotta see this city at least once!); Chiang Mai, Thailand (Going trekking in the jungle); Burma (off the beaten path traveling); Cebu, Philippines (Snorkeling!); Hong Kong (food, gadgets, etc).

What made you decide to become a restaurateur?
I sort of fell into the industry in a way… When I was 17 I moved out on my own while still in high school, and needed a job to pay rent at my tiny tiny studio in North Park (about 3 blocks from Breakfast Republic). I got a job as a dish washer, and was then promoted to a bus boy, then server. When I was 24 I started saving money and had enough to open Fig Tree Cafe’s PB location on a shoestring budget when I was 27.

What is your favorite thing about the San Diego culinary scene?
Its current growth – lots of exciting things are happening. I’m opening two new restaurants within the next 12 months 🙂

What kind of change do you hope to see?
The “bar” has been raised significantly in the recent years and I look forward to seeing it continue to rise, and being part of raising it higher!


Brian Malarkey
Brian Malarkey  Owner + Chef,  Searsucker, Herringbone, Gabardine,  http://brianmalarkey.com/
Live: Point Loma •  Work: All over! Downtown & Del Mar (Searsucker), La Jolla (Herringbone) and Point Loma (Gabardine). •  How Long: [I've been a chef in San Diego for] close to 10 years now.

What kinds of meals do you eat at home?
It’s all seafood around here! We live so close to Point Loma Seafoods and cooking up seafood is great for a chef as it’s quick and easy and the less you do to it, the better tasting it is.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?
Consortium places (Craft & Commerce, Soda & Swine, Polite Provisions, Neighborhood, Noble Experiment, UnderBelly, El Dorado), exploring Little Italy, Matt Gordon’s restaurants – Urban Solace knocks it out of the park!

Where do you go for a drink?
Gabardine is walking to distance to my house. It’s my own personal bar!

How do you like to spend your days off?
With my kids and wife. I have 3 kids so we have a ton of fun going to the beach, the pool, fishing and soccer, and we often take trips to Point Loma Seafoods for some good crustaceans. I love to play with my kids, they’re so energetic and fun with a 2 1/2 and 4 year old so everything we do from hikes, walks and talks is always an adventure.

What made you decide to become a chef?
I wasn’t very good at everything else − I tried business school and theatre (my friends said I wasn’t very good). For me, being in a  professional kitchen was glorious and made all the sense to me.

What is your favorite thing about the San Diego culinary scene?
It’s an exciting time in the San Diego culinary scene, we have the feel of an up-and-coming foodie city. There’s really neat stuff going on with Hanis [Cavin] from Carnitas’ Snack Shack, the expansion of Matt Gordon’s restaurants is fun, Arsalun [Tafazoli] is awesome, The Lion’s Share is awesome, along with a ton of other up and coming restaurants. It’s EXCITING. We’re also getting some national expansion attention with Katsuya and Mozza coming in − the time is NOW in San Diego!

What kind of change do you hope to see?
Would love to see some more great restaurants downtown − come down and join me! It would also be great to get some destination dining. And I wish we could get more locals to support their local restaurants!

 

Related News: Burlap is reopening as Searsucker Del Mar.


Kathleen Wise  Chef,  Starlite,  http://www.starlitesandiego.com/
Live: Logan Heights. I love this neighborhood, there are a lot of families on my street and everyone looks out for each other. I’d say it’s more neighborly than any other place I’ve lived. •  Work: Mission Hills •  How Long: I’ve happily worked at Starlite since we opened, 5 years ago in June. I love it! The owners really respect my decisions, and I feel good about supporting local farms and using their produce and meats to make unfussy, delicious food.

What kinds of meals do you cook at home?
I generally cook from scratch at home. I love making a giant pot of soup and having it all week for breakfast. I have a pretty big garden, which is filled with greens right now, so those have been a large part of my diet. I also have some laying hens and I try to keep up with their eggs. And I really like to entertain. It’s nice to cook for loved ones and actually get to sit down and enjoy it with them!

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?
My favorite restaurant is Okan, a tiny Japanese place in Kearny Mesa. The food is delicious, it’s really special. I also love Farm House CafeThe Lion’s Share (they have a great late night menu),Himalayan Cuisine in La Mesa and the taco truck on 21st and Imperial. Spicy House in Kearny Mesa is great too, I crave their vegetable dishes. I love meat, for sure, but I really crave vegetables more than anything else and it’s amazing how hard it is to find a good plate of them.

Where do you go for a drink?
I do enjoy a drink, I guess most chefs would say the same! I usually go to Hamilton’s or Monkey Paw. I like nice beer, the sours especially, and Hanna, a bartender at Hamilton’s, knows my tastes and is always making suggestions. I also think Starlite has such an amazing selection of liquor, it’s hard to find a reason to go anywhere else!

How do you like to spend your days off?
On my days off I really enjoy working in my garden and doing things around my house. I bought a house a year and a half ago in Logan Heights and have been putting my heart and soul into fixing it up ever since. I put in raised garden beds, I’m building an outdoor oven out of mud, I put up a chicken coop and built a couple of rabbit hutches. I like to hunt on Craigslist for materials and solve problems with creativity as opposed to running to the store and spending money. After a hard day’s work definitely comes a relaxing dinner and a drink with friends!

What would you do if you had a whole weekend off and it wasn’t a holiday?
When I take time off I like to get out of town. I’m from Wisconsin and I usually get back there for a couple weeks in the summer. I also enjoy little road trips around here, I have a thing for weird dessert culture. Ocotillo in the middle of summer is more fun than a person would think. If I just had a random weekend off? Huh, that doesn’t really happen that often so I’m not sure! I would definitely hang out with my 9 to 5er friends!

What made you decide to become a chef?
My love of cooking definitely comes from living with my grandmother and great aunt. Verona and Adeline were the sweetest, most awesome women. At breakfast we’d be at the table talking about lunch, at lunch we’d be talking about dinner, and at dinner the price of groceries and who had the best of whatever was in season. We had crushed summer strawberries that were stocked in the freezer at almost every meal, delicious farmer’s cheese, summer sausage and always a card game to conclude. They definitely instilled a love for food and mealtime in general. We sat down, ate, laughed and shared our days.

Katie Grebow  Chef,  Cafe Chloe,  http://www.cafechloe.com/
Work: East Village • 
What kinds of meals do you cook at home? Is it more often a serious meal, something simple, or out of a box?
I love to cook at home! I do a lot of cooking from scratch – I love to get fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market and then cook a meal based on them. Right now, I’m having fun making my own baby food, and steaming up a couple new veggies every week. I gave my baby fava beans this week! And recently, I was on a baking kick where I made my own galette dough and tart dough and quiches. But I also love fake meat, believe it or not. And of course, I occasionally get something like a frozen pizza.

When you’re out of the kitchen, where do you like to dine out? Any favorites?
Dining out is the best! Farm House CafeStarliteBlind Lady Ale HouseSearsucker and Cucina Urbana are some favorites. For cheap eats: El CaminoBurger Lounge (their salad is to die for, as well as their veggie burger), Ranchos (veggie mexican!), Evolution (veggie fast food), Fish Market, or any Thai or Indian place.

Where do you go for a drink? 
I’m not a big drinker, I don’t go to a lot of bars anymore. But it’s fun drinking at Starlite. I love the beer selection at Blind Lady, Newport Pizza and Toronado. Local craft beers are the best! Green Flash’sTrippel and Le Freak are my favorites.
 
What would you do if you had a chunk of time off and it wasn’t a holiday?
For an ideal weekend or vacation, I would have to start it with a wonderful brunch. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I love good coffee and breakfast cocktails. I love making brunch, going to friends’ houses for brunch or going out to places like Farm House. Usually I’m working our busy brunch, so it’s a real treat to go to someone else’s. Then I would maybe stroll around Balboa Park, go to a museum. My guy and I love to do what we call a cheese happy hour, either having a cheese plate and wine at a restaurant somewhere, or making one at home. We go to Venissimo and buy a bunch of cheeses and toast a baguette, pull out jams and compotes and some wine, and spend the afternoon on our deck. But usually if we are on vacation, we don’t just staycation, we love to travel. So, that is what I ideally would be doing with some free time.
 
What made you decide to become a chef?
When I was in high school, I used to always get a “caprese sandwich” with my friends at this cafe in L.A. where I grew up. I decided I wanted to work there as my first job, and got a serving job there. It was the only job I even thought about getting. In college, I would spend more time making elaborate recipes than studying. But even though I continued to work in restaurants, I didn’t think about culinary work. I worked in my field, art history, at a gallery in La Jolla, and cocktailed on the side. Then finally, a friend pushed me to figure out my next move: Was I going to pursue art or stay in the restaurant industry? So I decided to move to the kitchen and entered culinary school. That was ten years ago. And here I am now.