These Chefs Are Kicking Taste Buds and Taking Names

Written By: Jasmín Nelson Where to Eat in Liberty Station

Surely, you’ve heard the saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Well, Michael Ground, Accursio Lotà, Tom Connolly, Marcello Avitabile and Daniel Diaz withstood the temperature! These gourmet artists all dish up different deliciousness, from casual to fine dining and then some. Each offer some pretty sweet menu picks, including an array of drinks sure to give you a little liquid courage to finally invite your #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) or #MCM (Man Crush Monday) out to eat, drink and be merry any day of the week.

 

Michael Ground, Executive Chef at Fireside on The Patio

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted as a top chef in Liberty Station?

Michael Ground: When we first opened Fireside, we wanted to create a space that our neighbors, friends and family would feel comfortable in. It was important for me to have the food and menu reflect this vision. Being voted top chef in Liberty Station means a lot, and shows that this vision is becoming a reality.

Q: What fuels your inspirational fire to cook?

MG: I would have to say that there are two main things that fuel my fire and inspiration to cook. The first is pleasing people. I love going into a busy night slightly anxious and nervous about the volume of business and then throughout the night seeing all of our guests leaving happy and pleased. The second is learning new techniques and skills. There are over a million things to learn in the culinary world. I learn something new every day from my team, from a better way to store herbs or getting a better yield when breaking down a whole fish.

Q: What is your culinary manifesto?

MG: Always be humble. Learn something new every day. Never give up. Push yourself. Work clean.

Q: What is the secret sauce that separates you from the chef next door?

MG: A good sauce is all about balancing complex flavors. A little bit of acid and salt can go a long way. It is what separates a good dish from a great dish, or from what keeps guests coming back time and time again. If all else fails, a dash of chili flake or whole grain mustard never hurt anyone. In all honesty, the method to my madness is simple. I’d rather get a dish sent back from being over seasoned than under. No one is going to come back for bland food. I also can honestly say I love doing what I do. I didn’t change careers for nothing, and I believe that if you’re working in a kitchen you should enjoy it. There is always a job that needs to get done, and I strive to have fun while doing it. After all, people go out to eat to celebrate, relax and make memories. I get to have a part in that.

Q: What are the perks of doing what you do?

MG: The camaraderie. There is a level of friendship and teamwork in a kitchen and restaurant that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It is a great feeling to sit down at the end of the night with your team and have a cold beer and maybe some bourbon, talking about the night and knowing you get to come back the next day and do it again. Oh yeah, I also get to eat delicious food all day.

Q: If you were stuck on an island, which meal from your restaurant’s menu would you take with you and why?

MG: The grilled pork chop—to me it is the perfect dish: a nice grilled piece of pork that has been marinated in thyme, orange and brown sugar so it gets nice and caramelized on the outside and super juicy in the middle. It’s served with fluffy whipped potatoes and grilled broccolini for that starch and veg balance, and then topped with a house-made mustard butter that adds complex, spicy depth to bring it all together. I could eat it every day!

 

Accursio Lotà, Executive Chef at Solare Ristorante Italian Bar Lounge

Q: What does it mean to be voted as a top chef in Liberty Station?

Accursio Lota: Being voted as a top chef in the neighborhood where I also run is great!

Q: What fuels your inspirational fire to cook?

AL: My family and the great local ingredients that San Diego has to offer.

Q: What is your culinary manifesto?

AL: 1. Stay grounded with your feet on the Earth.

  1. Get inspired from who you are and where you come from.

Q: What are the perks of doing what you do?

AL: Being able to travel and discover new food inspiration while doing it.

Q: What is the secret sauce that separates you from the chef next door?

AL: I don’t have a secret in my kitchen, It’s about my team, and the knowledge and energy my whole restaurant puts into what we do everyday.

Q: If you were stuck on an island, which meal from your restaurant’s menu would you take with you and why?

AL: For sure pizza! So I can eat with my hands, considering I don’t think I will have any silverware to eat any of our other amazing menu items.

 

Tom Connolly, Chef at Stone Brewing

Q: What does it mean to be voted as a top chef in Liberty Station?

Tom Connolly: There are a lot of great restaurants and chefs in Liberty Station these days. It’s an honor to be part of what’s going on over here.

Q: What fuels your inspirational fire to cook?

TC: My wife is also really into food and cooking. The two of us bounce ideas off of each other frequently. To start with a simple concept, devised over dinner with the kids. To work through a variety of rough drafts until a final product is reached and shared with the world. To make my family part of what I do professionally is one of my biggest inspirations.

Q: What is your culinary manifesto?

TC: While my cooking values are traditionally based, I also embrace innovation. Seeking out modern techniques, appliances, information and ideas. My visions begin with a traditional thought and I focus on how I can get to that same concept using modernist ingredients and applications.

Q: What is the secret sauce that separates you from the chef next door?

TC: I’ve had the opportunity to experience a variety of different geographical settings during my run. From growing up in Boston and spending time in the Bay Area, Denver, Seattle, Poipu/Hawaii before finally settling down in San Diego, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to work with some very talented and inspirational people along the way while never losing the desire to learn as much as I could (good and bad) or as many different cuisines that I could. I’m now at a restaurant that I can truly start to marry all of my unique experiences.

Q: What are the perks of doing what you do?

TC: I get to play with food all day long while getting paid to do it.

Q: If you were stuck on an island, which meal from your restaurant’s menu would you take with you and why?

TC: This question makes me wish that I had pizza on the menu but I don’t, so I would take the poke tacos; fresh yellow fin tuna, smashed avocado, wakame salad, spicy sesame-soy vinaigrette with wonton “taco shells.” The dish is just delicious in it’s simplicity. Light, refreshing and doesn’t get old no matter how many I eat.

Marcello Avitabile, Master Pizzaiolo at Officine Buona Forchetta

Q: What does it mean to be voted as a top chef in Liberty Station?

Marcello Avitabile: It means everything to me! I’ve loved getting to know the other amazing chefs around the neighborhood, so to be included is such an honor!

Q: What fuels your inspirational fire to cook?

MA: My mother, she’s the best chef in Italy. I’m just trying to make her proud.

Q: What is your culinary manifesto?

MA: Believe in what you do, and love what you do with a passion. Our job is to make everyone that walks through our doors happy, and we do that through the passion we have for our food.

Q: What is the secret sauce that separates you from the chef next door?

MA: Not a sauce, more like our dough! The original recipe has been in my family for generations, and is one [of] the most closely guarded secrets in Italy!

Q: What are the perks of doing what you do?

MA: One of the best parts about being a Master Pizzaiolo is passing down the traditions of Neapolitan pizza to train the next generation of pizzaiolos.

Q: If you were stuck on an island, which meal from your restaurant’s menu would you take with you and why?

MA: Eggplant Parmesan. It’s one dish that always reminds me of my mother.

 

Daniel Diaz, Executive Chef at Corvette Diner

Q: What does it mean to be voted as a top chef in Liberty Station?

Daniel Diaz: I am truly honored and feel like I am a part of something important.

Q: What fuels your inspirational fire to cook?

DD: My inspiration comes from knowing and seeing when we present a dish, I appreciate seeing how much people enjoy it.

Q: What is your culinary manifesto?

DD: My manifesto is try to keep everything house made so the food is more fresh and enjoyable.

Q: What is the secret sauce that separates you from the chef next door?

DD: I believe the secret sauce is showing customers great hospitality, experiencing them enjoy the food while creating a great ambience.

Q: What are the perks of doing what you do?

DD: I believe the best advantage of doing what I do is being able to take constructive criticism and opinions from my beloved guests.

Q: If you were stuck on an island, which meal from your restaurant’s menu would you take with you and why?

DD: I would take my garbage platter mainly because it contains a little bit of everything, such as three mini burger sliders, fresh breaded onion rings, fresh fried chicken tenders and some cheeeeeezy mozzarella triangles. Did I mention it comes with all types of different dressings? Don’t let the name fool you.

Get Your Forks Ready! These Chefs of Liberty Station Will Have Your Belly Full and Your Taste Buds Satisfied