Chef Jonathan Hale 2016

Jonathan Hale (Foodtasia Chef Committee Co-Chair)

Executive Chef, The Prado at Balboa Park

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Executive Chef Jonathan Hale knew at an early age that he would one day become a chef. He had always enjoyed tasting different types and textures from all over the globe, which is most likely the result of Jonathan’s varying regional background. He was born in India, raised in London and finished high school in New York. Jonathan’s first job in the restaurant industry began at the age of 17 as a waiter in Cape Cod, Mass.

Jonathan’s ambition led him to the Culinary Institute of America in New York, where he graduated in 1991. He then began moving further westward and landed a position as Chef Tournant at the Renaissance Restaurant in Aspen, Col. He remained there for over two years, and then decided to relocate to Hawaii where he could work with the freshest seafood possible. He started as a line cook at the famed Pacific Café with Jean-Marie Josselin in Maui and Kauai and was soon promoted to Executive Chef.

After seven years in Hawaii, Chef Hale moved to San Diego in 2001, and took over the helm as Executive Chef at the first seafood restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter – Blue Point Coastal Cuisine. Hale and his team created a first class menu, earning awards from the Gaslamp Quarter Association, such as “Favorite Place to Dine,” “Best Seafood,” “Favorite Wine List,” “Best Customer Service” and “Best Downtown Restaurant” from San Diego Home & Garden Magazine.

In early 2010, Cohn Restaurant Group was very pleased to announce that Chef Jonathan Hale was appointed as the new Executive Chef of CRG’s award-winning restaurant, The Prado at Balboa Park. Chef Hale’s favorite thing about his job, besides working with his culinary team, is “being able to create a dish, market it, execute it, and do it all over again the next day. It just doesn’t get old.” Jonathan’s experience and unique style have quickly distinguished him as a leader and an innovator for the Cohn Restaurant Group.

Chef Sara

Sara Polczynski (Foodtasia Chef Committee Co-Chair)

Owner and Culinary Artisan, Seasoned Plates

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Sara Polczynski, owner and Culinary Artisan for Seasoned Plates has been a part of the San Diego culinary scene for almost 20 years. Her story has many chapters. As a Chef graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Sara left to train at the renowned Manele Bay Hotel in Lanai, HI and The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO. Upon her return to her native San Diego, Sara was hired as the Corporate Pastry Chef for the Cohn Restaurant Group, running the pastry department for multiple restaurant concepts.

Sara’s love for teaching on the job led to a part time career of teaching in the classroom. Sara currently holds the position of Associate Professor at San Diego Community College-Continuing Education and teaches the Baking and Pastry Program as well as cooking classes.

Over the years, Sara’s love for cooking began to expand along with her love of travel. Having the opportunity each year to travel and learn about regional Mexican cuisine, art and culture with influential chef mentors, Rick Bayless, Ricardo Munoz and Susana Trilling, has shaped the style and flavors of Sara’s cuisine. Her most recent project utilizing the knowledge, passion and techniques of authentic regional Mexican cuisine was as the Consultant Executive Chef for The Blind Burro in San Diego. Bringing authentic Mexican cuisine with a modern California flair to the people of San Diego was a dream project. This February Sara also had the opportunity to teach hands on cooking classes at the world renowned Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, utilizing fresh produce grown on their on-site organic farm.

Seasoned Plates is brought to life in the next chapter of the story in order for Sara to share her passion for food.

Seasoned Plates is a full-service catering company specializing in bringing bold flavors, bright colors, local freshness and a custom culinary experience to each and every client. Each menu and event decor is individually personalized to reflect the needs of the client. Sara’s passion for cooking and desire to give back to the community has brought her to the San Diego Food Bank as a Chef Co-Chair for this year’s fundraiser.

Chef David Abella

David Abella

Executive Chef, West Steak and Seafood

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David Abella, Executive Chef at West Steak and Seafood, was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he started his career alongside the pioneer of Euro-Asian, Roy Yamaguchi. Chef Abella worked in the Roy’s family for 20 years as Executive Chef and Corporate Executive Chef, traveling the world. Abella was recruited and worked in Hong Kong at the world renowned Peninsula Hotel’s iconic eatery, Felix Restaurant.

Chef Abella has mentored many young chefs in his career. A lover of Italian, French and Mediterranean flavors, Abella incorporates Asian herbs, European flavors and Hawaiian Seafood to his creations at West Steak and Seafood.

Abella prides himself in incorporating fresh produce into West Steak and Seafood’s seasonally evolving menu from the restaurant’s private, three-acre farm, located just a few miles away. “I’m grateful to have a resource like the West Farm where I can utilize the seasonal produce and put my own eclectic style on the cuisine which will be ever changing,” says Chef Abella.


Chef Jonathan Bautista

Chef Jonathan Bautista

Chef de Cuisine, George’s at the Cove

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Jonathan graduated from The Art Institute of California with an Associates of Science in Culinary Arts in 2005, and began his career at Roy’s in La Jolla as a line cook before becoming a corporate trainer and then sous chef in 2008.

After five years, he moved to Kitchen 1540 under Chef Paul McCabe at Kitchen 1540 in Del Mar where he worked as sous chef until leaving to join the opening team of Michael Voltaggio’s INK in Los Angeles. He returned to San Diego as chef de cuisine of Kitchen 1540 in late 2011, overseeing the upscale resort’s entire restaurant and banquet operation. Jonathan currently run’s the day to day operation at George’s California Modern under Executive Chef/Partner Trey Foshee.

Chef Nick Brune

Chef Nick Brune

Co-Founder and Executive Chef, Eco Caters

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Chef Nicholas Brune was born and raised in the heart of “flavor country,” Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he began cooking and experimenting with food at a very young age. This hobby grew to be an obsession when he moved to New Orleans, and began working at Mr. B’s Bistro. After working for the Brennen Family for two years, Chef Brune became infatuated with the flavor and design of food.

Chef Brune then moved to Los Angeles and worked as head chef of some of the top catering companies in the city, where he had full responsibility for coordinating all aspects of the kitchen for some of the biggest events in LA. He quickly discovered his passion for catering private and corporate events of all sizes and budgets. Adding to his already burgeoning resume, Chef Brune introduced his personal chef skills and talents to a wide array of clientele, including celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. Chef Brune Co-Founded Eco Caters in 2007 alongside Adam Hiner to bring fresh, seasonal, organic food to the tables of events throughout Southern California. In 2011, Brune and Hiner opened a new restaurant in San Diego called Local Habit,

Today, Chef Brune has dedicated his talents to creating artful, seasonal, organic dining experiences that are full of flavor and zest.


Chef Alex Carballo

Chef Alex Carballo

Executive Chef and Partner, Moto Deli

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Nationally respected as of one of Restaurant Hospitality Magazine’s “12 to watch in 2012”, Alex Carballo has been noted in top industry publications such as Food & Wine, Sunset Magazine and Draft Magazine. Alex has manned the helm in some of San Diego’s most prestigious kitchens (Crosby Country Club, Indigo Grill, Brigantine and The Fishery), but it was his five-year stint as General Manager/Executive Chef at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens that earned him national acclaim.

In 2014, Carballo went on to partner with URBN Coal Fired Pizza to launch a wildly successful local brewery, the former URBN Brewing. Alex is now the Executive Chef and partner of Moto Deli, a chef-driven sandwich shop opening in summer 2016. He is a practicing member of Slow Food San Diego, board member for Chef Celebration and also advises the California Department of Education’s “California Farm to School Task Force”. A bona-fide tastemaker at heart, the San Diego native is also an avid collector of fine and rare tequilas, bourbons, whiskies and wines.


Chef Evan Cruz

Chef Evan Cruz

Executive Chef, Arterra Del Mar at San Diego Marriott Del Mar

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Evan Cruz, an aspiring young chef, was born in the Philippines and raised in San Diego California. At a young age, he recalls learning how to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen cooking rice, rolling Lumpia (Filipino spring rolls), cutting fish, cleaning vegetables. He discovered his fascination with the culinary arts starting as a prep cook and dishwasher at the age of 15. Learning and working hard he worked his way up to sous chef by the age of 19. From there, he found himself in the midst of glamorous city lights of Las Vegas.

Not feeling satisfied and wanting to educate himself further, in 2000, he enrolled and graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. In 2001, Missing home, he found himself back in San Diego and becoming the executive chef/partner at Roy’s La Jolla. With that “seven year itch” in 2007, Evan left Roy’s to start his own catering company “Exclusive Chef Catering/Consulting”.

Still wanting more of a challenge and missing cooking for guests in 2010 he found himself at finding that passion and love at “Pacifica Del Mar”. With Chris Idso moving into a new position as general manager, this created a perfect symbiotic relationship where both chefs have the love and passion for using fresh local ingredients, sustainable seafood with focus, love and passion for California coastal cuisine.

At the end of 2011, Looking to further his experience and knowledge Evan took on the position as Executive Sous Chef for the prestigious L’auberge Del mar Hotel and Resort. In the beginning of 2013, He found a great opportunity to work with another James Beard Award winning chef with Chef Bernard Guillas at the majestic La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. With a phenomenal opportunity from Arterra and The San Diego Marriott Del Mar, Evan found himself taking the helm of Executive Chef at landmark Carmel Valley hotel.

I believe that food is inspired by understanding the bounty of San Diego from the seafood rich oceans of Baja California to the fertile farms of the Imperial Valley my cuisine has developed with a local-centric view and global influences.

“To me a chef is just like any artist, you want them to leave you with an impression of their soul.”

Chef Amy Tidal

Chef Amy DiBiase

Executive Chef and General Manager, Tidal at Paradise Point Resort

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Celebrated Chef Amy DiBiase is at the helm of Paradise Point’s signature restaurant, working in an innovative role as both Executive Chef and General Manager of Tidal. DiBiase was previously Chef de Cuisine at Tidal’s precursor, Baleen, from 2006 to 2008 and rejoined the Paradise Point team in 2013 to be the driving force behind the conceptualization and launch of the new restaurant. After opening in 2014, Tidal quickly ascended to prominence and has since been named as one of San Diego’s top restaurants by Zagat, Thrillist, San Diego Magazine and OpenTable.

After obtaining her Culinary Arts and Food Service Management degrees from Johnson & Wales University, she accepted a position at Laurel Restaurant and Bar in San Diego. She was then hired as Chef de Cuisine at Baleen, where she worked for two years. Her inventive food earned her and the hotel accolades, making her one of San Diego’s top chefs. DiBiase also assisted in the opening of fine dining restaurant Roseville in Point Loma,
which established her credibility as a sought-after chef.

When she’s not cooking, DiBiase donates time to local events and charities, including the San Diego Center for Children, the Center for Community Solutions, Chef Celebration and Olivewood Gardens.

Chef Phillip Esteban

Chef Phillip Esteban

Executive Chef, The Cork and Craft

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Phillip’s professional career began with earning a degree in Culinary Arts from the Arts Institute of San Diego. Soon after, he helped open The Guild with chef Melissa Mayer and began work there in his first sous chef position. This became the first of several occasions: Phillip served as the opening sous chef for Craft and Commerce, then assisted again with the opening of three Tender Greens locations. Having eventually worked in seven different Tender Greens kitchens, Phillip gained an appreciation for the experience that can only come from working in a variety of kitchens, with world class chefs. This led to a culinary journey, staging at restaurants up and down the west coast in preparation for the mecca of American cuisine, NYC.

Phillip spent his time in Manhattan’s pressure cooker well, working at the preeminent David Chang’s second Momofuku location, Momofuku Ssäm Bar. He also continued his quest to train in a broad range of kitchens, often simply walking into a restaurant with his knife bag and asking for the opportunity to work for the day. This led to staging in many of NYC’s most renowned restaurants, including Persé, Sorrela, wd~50, Marea, and many others.

With both the culinary and operational experience gained from this exposure, Phillip returned to Southern California. His first stop was again with Tender Greens, opening their location in Irvine. But his heart has always been in San Diego, so he soon returned and begun working at Nine Ten La Jolla, with Chef Jason Knibb. The opportunity to help launch The Cork and Craft was a perfect chance for Phillip to join a new kitchen that is open, not just for patrons to view, but to the exciting techniques learned on his bicoastal journey.


Gina from Venissimo Cheese

Chef Gina Freize

Executive Chef and Owner, Venissimo Cheese

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After visiting her parents’ home in Austria while growing up, Gina often wondered why America didn’t have fabulous European-style cheese shops. Hence, Venissimo Cheese was born. In 2003, Gina opened the first Venissimo Cheese in Mission Hills, intending to do for cheese what Starbucks did for coffee. Since then, she has opened neighborhood shops in Del Mar & downtown San Diego at The Headquarters. Soon the Camembert will be as well-known as the cappuccino!

Gina has compiled a knowledge-base of more than 2,000 domestic & international cheese varieties! Incidentally, she has tasted all of them. She can tell you the type of milk, country of origin, production methods, plus perfect wine, beer and food pairings for each one.

Over the years while visiting both domestic and international cheesemakers in her quest for the worthy title of “Cheese Wiz,” she has learned about the pure goodness & joy of artisinal foods.

Gina is a member of the American Cheese Society and teaches classes around San Diego, including at her own Academy of Cheese (AoC), Southern California’s first official cheese school. Next adventure is the creation of San Diego’s first urban cheese-making facility. She has written articles for various trade publications and is working on a new cheese adventures television program & cookbook.


Chef Jason Hotchkiss

Chef Jason Hotchkiss

Director of Culinary Operations, The Patio Group

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Chef Jason Hotchkiss is the Director of Culinary Operations for the Patio Restaurant Group. In his role, he oversees the operational management, menu development and culinary experience of all restaurants within the Patio Group.

Chef Hotchkiss comes to The Patio Group with over 30 years of industry experience. Previously, he held the Corporate Chef position at both the Cohn Restaurant Group and Whisk N Ladle Hospitality. Before relocating to San Diego, Jason was the Executive Chef for Bottega Louie in Los Angeles where he was responsible for food consistency, quality, timeliness and 80 person kitchen staff.

Throughout his culinary career, Hotchkiss has held several positions including Culinary Partner at PF Chang’s, where he participated in menu development and helped grow the organization from 6 restaurants to more than 200. Other notable restaurants on his extensive resume include San Francisco’s highly acclaimed L’Entrecote de Paris and Café Kati.

Chef Jason graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where he appeared on “Cooking at the Academy”. In his spare time, Jason enjoys fishing the local San Diego waters and is passionate about connecting local providers of fish, game and vegetables more closely with restaurant kitchens.


Chef Craig Jimenez

Chef Craig Jimenez

Chef and Partner, Supernatural Sandwiches

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A San Diego native, Craig was surrounded by friends and family that regularly bonded with food and developed an appreciation for its role in all cultures and their history. The care and appreciation from beginning to end gave him a passion for quality and meaning to that saying “you are what you eat and how you eat.”

Growing up in San Diego’s unique geography exposed him to the bounty of the sea, a palette of fresh vegetables and the region’s local yet exotic ingredients, thus fueling his desire for freshness and flavor. He pursued a Culinary Arts Degree from the Art Institute of California, San Diego to learn French techniques and further open his mind to all the possibilities. There he joined an intense team competition and was taken under the wings of Chef John Miller and Chef Tina Luu. It was during those two years he discovered
food is art, multi-faceted, titillating all the senses.

Just before graduating in 2005 he continued to work on this passion by learning Italian Cuisine at Prego with Chef Josh McGinnis. “Seeing production from scratch like pasta fuels my beliefs of all the countless possibilities.”

In 2007, he had the opportunity to express himself as Executive Chef at the Guild Restaurant + Lounge in Barrio Logan, creating small plates with metal fabricator Paul Basile and getting back to harmonious flavor explosions. A call led him back to the helm of Firefly’s warm ambiance to entice family and friends to satiate their palates. During the development of the culinary philosophy and direction at Firefly he took on some menu consultation at Neighborhood in East Village. Working with Neighborhood sparked another collaboration between Noble Experiment and El Dorado to create a restaurant that can push the boundaries with simplicity and consistency. After successfully opening Craft and Commerce on August 8th 2010 he set for continued growth helping to open The Compass in Carlsbad while expanding Craft and Commerce’s food program. Craft and Commerce became complete with a full Brunch, Lunch and Dinner menu and restaurant expansion in two years time.

A full revamp at Henry’s Pub to improve their 12 year old concept in these past 4 months include a new Lunch and Dinner menu and Cold Press Juice Bar. A full remodel of the dining room and plateware to move the american pub towards growth for the future.

As the Chef and Partner of Supernatural, Chef Craig will be exploring San Diego’s roots and local geography through our farmers and fisherman.

“The thing that keeps me excited is exploring different regions of the world for their customs, cultures and traditions then using that inspiration to source the best ingredients while at their peak for expression.”


Chef Victor Cowboy Star

Chef Victor Jimenez

Executive Chef, Cowboy Star Restaurant & Butcher Shop

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Executive Chef Victor Jimenez, originating from Manzanillo, Mexico, is a graduate of San Diego State University and the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Academie D’Art Culinaire in Paris, France. In 2008, Jimenez was invited to become a co-founder of Cowboy Star Restaurant and Butcher Shop. Located in the thriving urban community of East Village in Downtown San Diego, Cowboy Star provides a unique neighborhood fine dining experience with a spotlight on American contemporary cuisine with a Western flare.

Executive Chef Victor Jimenez used his imaginative palate to compose a menu with an emphasis on sustainably sourced local produce and top quality meats, stating “We always made a commitment to working with quality ranchers and farmers across the country and we will never compromise that.” Restoring the neighborhood butcher shop, Cowboy Star has become a destination for specialty protein and game, and ensures quality and consistency by hand cutting all steaks served in house. Jimenez’s influence on the culinary landscape in San Diego recaptures simple and pure tastes found in locally grown, natural ingredients, and updates American heirloom recipes. Chef Victor Jimenez’s focus on a sustainable food future, remarkable dining and genuine high caliber service are all elements showcased in the memorable Cowboy Star experience!

Chef Accursio from Solare

Chef Accursio Lota

Executive Chef, Solare Ristorante & Lounge

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I am originally from Menfi, a small agricultural town in Sicily, Italy. I grew up with centuries-old Mediterranean dishes made by my mother and grandmother using locally caught fish, local farm-raised meat, and fruit and vegetables from our own gardens. I am very attached to the land where I was born, and to the culture and the food.

I’ve always known I wanted to be a chef. When I was just a baby, my mom would put a pile of flour and water in front of me to play with on our tiled kitchen floor. It was the only thing that kept me from crying. From then on I loved to be in the kitchen. When I was a five, I would come home from school and pull out the flour, sugar and milk and make crepes. When I graduated from middle school, and it came time to decide what I was going to study, I didn’t have a question: I went to culinary school.

When I was 18, I was chosen to represent my school at a National Culinary Competition. After graduation, I was given the opportunity to work with Sergio Mei at the Four Seasons in Milan. Sergio Mei is one of the finest and most respected chefs in Europe and, working closely with him, I could see why. Chef Mei gave me his passion for the Italian culinary tradition, the simplicity of pairing ingredients, and the search for inventive, but honest, flavors. I also learned the essential techniques of fine dining cuisine. Cooking for events such as the Scala Theatre opening in Milan – where we served 1,000 guests, including Italian celebrities, politicians and even the President of Italy, a six-course fine dinning menu – I started to see the combination of dedication, focus and artistry that a chef strives for in the kitchen.

In November 2012 I became Executive Chef at Solare Restaurant and Lounge in Point Loma. I look forward to the new joys challenges presented by coming back to Italian cuisine with a new appreciation for global and local San Diego audiences.


Chef Joe Cucina

Chef Joe Magnanelli

Executive Chef,
Urban Kitchen Group (CUCINA urbana and CUCINA enoteca)

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Joe Magnanelli, executive chef at Urban Kitchen Group, began his career at the age of 16 and quickly made a mark for himself as a force of natural talent. After gaining experience at various small, family-owned restaurants in his hometown in Maryland, Magnanelli set his sights on our nation’s capital. He worked in some of D.C.’s finest restaurants, beginning with a study of the art of French technique with Chef Sandro Gamba, an Alaine Ducasse disciple, at Lespinasse. Moving on to the acclaimed Bistrot Lepic in upper Georgetown, he learned the rich, rustic fare of southern France under Stephane Lezla. After making a stop in the nation’s capital at the exclusive Ritz Carlton on M Street, Magnanelli decided to head west to San Diego. He landed at El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, where he worked as sous chef under the direction of executive chef Gavin Kaysen.

In mid 2006, Magnanelli joined Urban Kitchen and became the chef de cuisine at Chive. His creative flare was celebrated in the California-inspired small plates menu, and in 2008 Joe took over the reigns at Laurel restaurant + bar.

In 2009, returning to his roots and family heritage, Magnanelli welcomed the idea of transforming Laurel into a high-energy, California-inspired Italian kitchen and wine shop. At CUCINA urbana, Joe has painted his greatest culinary canvas yet, creating a beautiful and simple farm fresh menu that offers exquisite fare at a value-driven price point. In late 2011, he worked with restaurateur Tracy Borkum to open a second CUCINA in Orange County – CUCINA enoteca, and in 2013 opened CUCINA enoteca in Del Mar. Most recently, he helped open the latest location of CUCINA enoteca at Fashion Island in Newport Beach in August 2014.

Magnanelli regularly contributes his time on behalf of community and charity events throughout the county in support of various local and national organizations, including Chef Showdown benefitting the Center for Community Solutions, Chef Celebration which raises funds for an annual local culinary scholarship fund, Kawasaki Disease Foundation, CRA, the San Diego internship program with SDCI, and Rock the Cure to help fight women’s cancers. He is also an avid supporter of sustainable farming practices and strives to work with as many local supplier partners as possible.


Chef Mario Medina

Chef Mario Medina

Executive Chef, The Main Course

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Spending many childhood days in the kitchen with his mother in Mexico City, Mario Medina developed a deep passion for food that inspired his journey of becoming an executive chef. After finishing culinary school in his hometown, Mario came to the United States to follow his dream. Working and learning in some of the finer kitchens on the west coast, Mario quickly established a reputation for great food and hospitality, driven by his desire to please every guest. His dream was soon realized when, in less than a year as Sous Chef at Chateau La Jolla Inn, he was offered the position of Executive Chef. Mario next took the helm at Paradise Grill in Del Mar, then Finch’s bistro for five years and is now leading the kitchen at Bernini’s Bistro in La Jolla.

Although still young and early in his career, Mario is becoming noteworthy for his culinary achievements, having been featured in magazines “San Diego Home and Garden”, “Dining Out”, “About Town”, “Where”, “Riviera”, “Fine”, “Ranch & Coast” and “Mexico Aquí”, and on many local television news channels. Mario has been a participating chef for numerous fundraisers and events like Cooking for Cancer, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mama’s Kitchen, Taste of the Cove, the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival, and the Latin Food Festival, San Diego Food and Bank Chefs Gala, to name but a few.

He is featured in a cookbook showcasing San Diego’s top chefs – San Diego Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from America’s Finest City – and is a weekly recipe contributor to 860AM Radio and Mexico Aqui Magazine.

Mario’s ongoing commitment to excellence and true hospitality, paired with his passion and love of food, always ensure his guests leave happy.


Chef James Montejano

Chef James Montejano

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Chef Mario Moser

Chef Mario Moser

Executive Chef, The Flying Pig Pub & Kitchen

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My first kitchen job was when I was fresh out of high school at a mom & pop Italian restaurant named Frugatti’s in Bakersfield. I then worked as a carpenter until the housing market crashed. After that happened, I attended the San Diego Culinary Institute and graduated in 2008. I worked as a line cook under Chef Jason Knibb at Nine Ten in La Jolla, where I learned almost everything I know today about cooking. I then interviewed by cooking a multi-course meal for the owners of The Flying Pig and was immediately hired. I have worked for them for the last five years, helped build and open two restaurants and am currently Executive Chef of both locations, where I maintain a different seasonal/sustainable menu at each.


Chef Anthony Pascale

Chef Anthony Pascale

Executive Chef and Owner, Saiko Sake & Sushi Bar

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Chef, owner, and Certified Sake Professional, Anthony Pascale has changed San Diego’s sushi scene in all the best ways. His expertise in craft sake and working with wild, locally caught fish, has served him well in his career as sushi chef and business owner.

After working as Executive Sushi Chef at former San Diego sushi restaurants, Ono Sushi and Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar, Pascale founded Saiko Sushi with Evan Bennett in Coronado – the first sushi restaurant in San Diego to feature local fish. In 2014, Saiko Sake + Sushi Bar in North Park was opened. With an emphasis on premium, small-batch sake, as well as a commitment to locally sourced, wild-caught seafood, Saiko Sake + Sushi Bar brings progressive Japanese cuisine to the eclectic North Park food scene.

Fresh, local, and seasonal are the words that are often used to describe Pascale’s culinary style. His top, signature dish is a Venison Carpaccio New Style Roll, featuring Roasted Cauliflower, Hokkaido Scallop, Australian Rock Lobster Tail, Toasted Walnut, Mentaiko Hollandaise, Rosemary, paired with 2014 Vino Sangiovese Rose, Charles Smith Winery, Columbia Valley. Pascale procures local produce from various Farmers’ Markets each week and selects fish daily from local fishmongers and fishermen. Because of this, his menu is dynamic and changes daily with the availability of fresh local seafood and produce from the weekly farmers markets.

Residing in Point Loma, Pascale enjoys surfing and skateboarding when he’s not at his restaurants. He also enjoys supporting friends and people in the restaurant industry. Just last month, Pascale put on a charity event to raise funds for a kidney transplant for former Executive Sushi Chef and friend, Tim Johnson. All proceeds from the private chef’s dinner went to supporting Tim Johnson and his family. Pascale’s love for his family and San Diego are what drives his spirit and passion at work, and in life.


Chef Brian

Chef Brian Redzikowski

Executive Chef, Kettner Exchange

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Kettner Exchange is one of San Diego’s most exclusive, forward-thinking restaurants. Opened in 2014 to local and national acclaim, Kettner Exchange was the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Orchid Award for Architecture. Executive Chef Brian Redzikowski’s menu boasts some of the most innovative, progressive entrees in San Diego, and his specialized menu includes individual small and shared plates of seasonal Main scallops, steaks and shops. Brian has worked for some of the best restaurants and chefs in the country, including New York City’s acclaimed Le Cirque 2000, Aspen Colorado’s Nobu Matsuhisa Aspen, Joel Rubicon at the Mansion in Las Vegas, and the 17 million dollar Yellowtail Restaurant in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. Most recently, Chef Brian was invited to cook for the James Beard Foundation.


Chef Jeff Roberto

Chef Jeff Roberto

Executive Sushi Chef and Owner, Sushi on A Roll

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I first started Sushi when there was only a handful of Japanese Restaurants in San Diego. I was traditionally trained as a chef and had 8 years experience when Sushi on a Roll began. I am happy to be in San Diego and I support local business when it comes to preferred vendors, even if I had to pay a little more occasionally. We have been fortunate enough to provide sushi for hotels, caterers, country clubs, brunches, concerts, conventions, stadiums and other major events. We’ve catered kosher parties, we’ve supplied orders from two rolls to tens of thousands of pieces of sushi during the Super Bowl. Along with the assistance of a great crew and awesome friends, we bring the “Aloha” spirit as well as sushi quality when invited to work at events.

Having been a Sushi Chef for over 25 years here in San Diego, my passion is still making sushi. As a Sushi Chef, we were considered entertainers, while our guests enjoy the delicacies of our Sushi making. Having fun and energy throughout the course of the meal was how I enjoy this side of the business. The camaraderie of the crew, the friendships and loyalty we have in the business is truly a blessing. On-site events (setting up the whole Sushi bar) is the Sushi Chefs place to shine, somewhat on stage. My staff and I considered this part of the business to have an exciting time at each event.

My name is Jeffrey Roberto, I am the Executive Sushi Chef / Owner of Sushi on a Roll, inc. Having been honored to consult for restaurants to open and design their sushi bars, Seau’s (Raw Mana) and Red Lion Hanalei Hotel (Island Sushi and Pupu bar) now the Crowne Plaza Hotel, gave me so much experience, from different demographics here in San Diego to remodeling each bar to fit each and every need. Special “Thank You” to everyone for a great 23 years and here is to another decade of service. Domo Arigato, Kanpai. Cheers and thank you very much from the staff of Team SOAR (Sushi on a Roll, inc).


Chef Jeff Rossman

Chef Jeff Rossman

Executive Chef, Terra American Bistro

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Rossman, a skilled, self-taught Chef of nearly 30 years, helped pioneer San Diego’s thriving farm-to-table movement by purchasing fresh, organic produce from local growers before it was en vogue. Travelling to farmer’s markets before farmer’s markets were cool.

His advocacy extends beyond his restaurants. He constantly donates time, energy and product to help the local farm to school movement assisting both the Oceanside and Lemon Grove School Food Services Directors teaching skills to workers and developing recipes. Chef Rossman has also worked on projects in conjunction with Energy 103.7 and the AJ in the morning show helping to promote healthy eating with the kids. He is currently a partner with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services, Live Well San Diego and the San Diego County Farm Bureau working with children about nutrition and the environment. For his dedication to end childhood obesity, the County of San Diego bestowed upon him the honorable “Sharing a Healthy Future” award at the Childhood Obesity Summit in 2010. Rossman is working to evolve school lunch programs to a more nutritious level and has received support in this initiative. October 23, 2014 was proclaimed Terra American Bistro Live Well San Diego Day by the County Board of Supervisors for Jeff’s service, commitment and leadership to the health and wellness of county residents.

In 2011, Chef Rossman published his first cookbook showcasing local farms and school gardens. His award-winning cookbook, “From Terra’s Table: is essentially a love story to the hardworking local growers and artisans he supports. In 2011, his cookbook garnered the coveted Best Cookbook award at the 17th annual San Diego Book & Writing Awards. His level of commitment, and passion shown in his book, garnered him the San Diego Farm Bureau’s inaugural San Diego Grown 365 Award also in 2011. His second cookbook, BYOB(Build Your Own Burger) Georgian Bay Press, was just released and features thousands of burger combinations as well as condiments, sides and farm to bar beverage creations.

Additionally, Chef Rossman is on the board of directors for the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association, as well as vice president of the board for Chef’s Celebration Foundation of San Diego, a nonprofit group that raises scholarship money for aspiring chefs. You can find Chef Rossman constantly at charity events around San Diego helping fellow Chefs and supporting the San Diego Community at large. Also, the California Avocado Commission has selected Chef Rossman to represent them in cooking demonstrations and with recipe creations for their website.

Under Rossman’s creative guidance, Terra has achieved consistent acclaim from Zagat, the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association, and the Wine Spectator. In 2010 Terra received the honor of San Diego Magazine Reader’s Poll Best of The Best & in 2013 Shared the spotlight for Best Farm To Table Restaurant in the San Diego Magazine again.


Chef Vaughn Vargas

Chef Vaughn Vargus

Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Administrator, University of California San Diego (UCSD)

Chef Vargus is an American Culinary Federation Certified Executive Chef (CEC) and Certified Culinary Administrator (C.C.A.). His background includes all phases of onsite food service operations. He has an extensive background in running multiple unit and off-site locations and catering venues. Some career highlights include attendances at both CIA Campuses and opportunities to represent American Cuisine in Southeast Asia and Europe.

Chef Vaughn Vargus is executive chef at UC San Diego’s Housing, Dining and Hospitality and leads a team of more than 800 dining employees, including 16 talented chefs and sous chefs. He also mentors student workers, which comprise 70 percent of the dining staff, and helps develop tasteful up to date, nutritious and balanced food options for the 18 eateries on campus including dining restaurants, specialty restaurants, markets in each of the 6 colleges and catering for campus-wide catering events.
An avid surfer and ocean goer, Chef Vargus spent evenings cooking in local restaurants and days in the water. He began working in restaurants at age 14, and has been passionate about food ever since. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, but is largely self-taught. “I have vivid memories as a young child of being in the kitchen when my grandmother was cooking. She was a phenomenal cook; she grew up in the Dust Bowl era. For some reason, I was the only one she would let in the kitchen when she was cooking. It probably had some influence on my career choice.”

Chef Vargus is a current member of the ACF and NACUFS and has been largely involved with culinary competitions as a competitor and administrating competitions nationwide.


Chef Davin Waite

Chef Davin Waite

Executive Chef, Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub

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Davin Waite was born to English parents in Oceanside California. Growing up and watching his father and aunt cook he developed a passion for food and cooking at a very young age. This love of food and how to prepare it in new and innovative ways began to progress as he graduated high school and was hired as a Sushi Chef at Sushi Taisho in Carlsbad California. Davin moved to Santa Barbara to pursue a degree in Psychology and began working at Ichiban under the instruction of Chef Hiro, a local legend and master of not only Sushi but French and Italian Cuisine. Two years later Davin was back in his native North San Diego County and received a sought after position at San Diego’s sushi hot spot Cafe Japengo. In 2003 he was approached by the owner of the Hill St. Cafe to open a sushi bar in his home town of Oceanside, and The Fish Joint was born.

After 8 years with Fish Joint Davin set out to find a forum that would allow him to source and prepare food in a manner consistent with his philosophies. Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub began as a pop-up but quickly became a destination for those who appreciated Waite’s creative and delicious approach to minimizing waste and celebrating local and sustainably sourced seafoods, meats and produce. In 2016 Waite opened his counter service compliment to W&R, The Whet Noodle, which features untraditional ramen and hot food offerings.

VIP Cheese Course provided by:

Venissimo Cheese

Dessert provided by:

bistro|sixty and Opera Café & Patisserie