Thanks to a year-round growing season and access to some of the freshest seafood in the world, San Diego inspires chefs to create exceptional California cuisine. Yet San Diego’s dining scene is too multi-faceted to be defined by one culinary style. The region embraces a creative multiculturalism, led by chefs whose diverse ethnic backgrounds and unique culinary expertise make for a dynamic dining destination.
Visitors can get a taste of the still under-the-radar food scene emerging from the kitchens of San Diego’s innovative chefs. The following are a few of the multicultural chefs in San Diego who are not afraid to mix flavors, play with spices and utilize inventive cooking techniques while keeping true to their own heritage and traditions.
An avid low rider car fan, Pablo Rios grew up in his grandmother’s kitchen in Barrio Logan, San Diego’s Chicano-centric neighborhood. At the age of seven, he began dreaming of his own restaurant while working at his uncle’s Mexican eatery. After working in real estate for a few years, a trip to Ensenada, Mexico, triggered the idea for Barrio Dogg , a low rider-styled hot dog cart located right in the neighborhood where he grew up. What began as a two-menu-item cart is now a restaurant and bar serving 13 different types of hot dogs, micheladas and 16 Mexican and San Diego craft beers on tap. Barrio Dogg’s Chicano comfort food menu fuses many international culinary styles, from Asian and German to Cuban and Mexican, combined with his grandmother’s traditional cooking techniques.
A seasoned San Diego culinary veteran, chef Jonathan Bautista has extensive experience in creating elevated California cuisine. His background includes leading the kitchens of all three levels of George’s at the Cove, including its fine dining restaurant California Modern, under the wing of Executive Chef/Partner Trey Foshee. Recently Bautista joined Common Theory Public House, a Convoy District pub serving more than 30 rotating craft beers in a relaxed atmosphere, and Realm of the 52 Remedies, an adjoining speakeasy that takes inspiration in both drinks and décor from Chinese medicine. As Head of Culinary Operations, Bautista works to elevate both menus by incorporating his Filipino American background and owners Cris Liang and Joon Lee’s Korean, Mexican and Chinese heritage.
Growing up in San Diego with a North African father and Chinese-Indonesian mother, Alia Jaziri was heavily influenced by the spices in her family’s pantry, her father’s traditional cooking techniques and San Diego’s proximity to Mexico. After working in the tech industry in San Francisco, Jaziri realized food was her true calling and returned to San Diego to cook at pop-up dinners and farmers’ markets until she was ready to open Medina in the eclectic North Park neighborhood. Described as Moroccan Baja cuisine, Medina is a stylish fast-casual eatery serving dishes that allow Jaziri to reflect her roots, like the herbed couscous grain bowls with Moroccan spiced chicken asado and merguez (house-made spicy lamb sausage) tacos.
Gan Suebsarakham holds many job titles: co-owner, executive chef and head ice cream maker. Born and raised in Khon Kaen, Thailand, Gan moved to San Diego at age 25 to pursue his dream of opening his own business. After attending culinary school in San Diego and later obtaining an MBA, Suebsarakham spent a year researching and experimenting with crust recipes before opening Pop Pie Co. in the uptown University Heights neighborhood. The influence of his Thai upbringing and world travels shows in his freshly baked sweet and savory pies like the roasted veggies and yellow curry pie and the Aussie meat pie. Suebsarakham’s adjacent Stella Jean’s Ice Cream shop provides an opportunity to showcase his passion for handmade ice cream, featuring creative flavor combinations like ube with pandesal toffee and matcha with strawberry-rose jam.
Born and raised in Miami to Cuban parents, Vivian Hernandez-Jackson has been passionate for baking and cooking since the age of eight. After moving to Europe to attend Le Cordon Bleu and working as a pastry chef in London and at hotels in Miami, she later took a job teaching baking classes in San Diego where she accomplished her dream of opening her own bakery in her laid-back Ocean Beach neighborhood. Azúcar is a local favorite where Hernandez-Jackson’s sandwiches, cakes and pastries, like guava and cheese pastelitos, are a true reflection of her classical French training and Cuban roots.
Find your smile in San Diego. For more information on San Diego’s offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org.