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Vote Here for Your Favorite Chef in Liberty Station

Written By: Jordan Ligons Chef in Liberty Station


Michael Ground, Executive Chef for Fireside on The Patio

Born and raised in San Diego, Michael Ground originally considered a career in banking before donning the chef’s coat. However, when he realized he’d rather be cooking than crunching numbers, he hung up the calculator and enrolled in the Arizona Culinary Institute, where he would eventually earn his degree. His dedication and hard work eventually paid off in 2016, as Chef Mike was named Executive Chef for the Patio Restaurant Group.

At Fireside in Liberty Station, Chef Mike is the master of meats large and small, personally curating quality offerings on a wood inspired menu.


Accursio Lotà, Executive Chef at Solare Ristorante Italian Bar Lounge

Executive Chef Accursio Lotà explained that it’s important for a chef to respect what’s “in season.” In Sicily, he grew up changing ingredients with the season every few months so that’s something he still brings with him! “The mind of a chef works while shopping or working on a farm… it just comes to you!” says the voted 2016 Best Chef in San Diego. “I put a lot of passion into what I’m doing because it’s what I like.”

Solare is notably known for their pizzas: “I like to keep pizza simple. Well done, fire­ oven prepared, and topped with 3­4 ingredients… if they’re good, you will remember it!” With owner Randy Smerik, Solare is a family-owned business that serves up top notch Italian cuisine along with wines, beers, and craft cocktails.


Alberto Morreale, Executive Chef Fig Tree Café

Growing up near Palermo, Sicily, Alberto Morreale had no inkling that he would one day become a master chef. At age 14, he began cooking for his family, igniting his love for the craft. Nowadays, the Executive Chef at Fig Tree Café credits his upbringing for instilling a lifelong passion for fresh and locally sourced cuisine. “Food doesn’t need to be complicated, but it is important to know where it comes from,” according to Morreale.


Cesar Garcia, Corporate Executive Chef for Rise & Shine Restaurant Group, Breakfast Republic Liberty Station

Cesar Garcia is the Corporate Executive Chef for Rise & Shine Restaurant Group. Cesar has many years of culinary experience working in the kitchen for international brand hotels such as Four Points by Sheraton to Peohe’s serving breakfast for the San Diego Chargers NFL team. Cesar also gained significant knowledge and leadership experience during his employment with Gordon Biersch and Yard House as part of the management teams.


Tim Kolanko, Executive Chef for Blue Bridge Hospitality, Mess Hall Bar, Pi Bar and Grape Smuggler Bar

One of the San Diego’s most prominent forces in the sustainable food movement, Chef Tim Kolanko brings a distinctively simple approach to his globally-inspired cuisine within Liberty Public Market at Mess Hall Bar, Pi Bar and Grape Smuggler Bar.  Chef Kolanko applies a “no rules” cooking approach to the market’s in-house concepts, letting the market lead his inspiration, and creating dishes based on what is currently available. Forging partnerships with local artisans and purveyors, Kolanko’s menus reflect his ethos of cooking unassuming, fresh, interesting dishes that allow the chef to express a renewed creativity day after day.


William Jacobson, Chef at THE LOT Liberty Station

Leading the culinary team at THE LOT Liberty Station is Chef William Jacobson. Born in Chicago, he was introduced to the art of cooking at a young age through his father, esteemed Executive Chef Daryl Jacobson. Having grown up with a chef for a father, it was clear that William would follow in his footsteps. He studied art at Columbia. After Columbia, he returned, working as a prep cook, then a line cook for the Catamaran Resort and Spa located in San Diego. After several years and prestigious kitchens, he returned to San Diego, working with French cuisine and Italian cuisine before coming to work for the Grand Del Mar, the five stars, and five diamond resort in San Diego. There he was introduced to Matt Sramek who became the Executive Chef for THE LOT.

William has a passion for combining using the best and freshest ingredients when creating his menu but also working with the seasons to make his dishes shine. In addition to working at THE LOT, William volunteers his culinary expertise by fundraising for homeless youth. He lives in San Diego with his fiancée and pets.


Jason McLeod, Chef & Partner of CH Projects, Soda & Swine

With over 25 years of culinary experience under his toque, CH Projects Chef/Partner Jason McLeod has traveled the world to train with several of the most prestigious chefs in the industry, and in 2009 as the opening executive chef of RIA in Chicago’s Five-Star Elysian Hotel, McLeod led a luxurious seafood restaurant from being relatively unknown, to receiving two Michelin stars during its first year of operation—an honor that only two other restaurants in Chicago (Charlie Trotter’s and Avenues) were awarded that year. Driven by entrepreneurship, Jason partnered with CH Projects to launch Soda & Swine in North Park in 2013 with Liberty Station to follow just two years later. Soda & Swine embraces the casual neighborhood eatery and features a straight forward, from-scratch menu rooted in the nostalgia of two classic mainstays: meatballs and apple pie.


Tom Connolly, Chef at Stone Brewing

Chef Tom Connolly’s culinary training began while he was in high school, working in a busy seafood house in Boston, MA.  His journey since has taken him to San Francisco, San Jose, Kauai, Seattle, and San Diego. Tom brings the knowledge accumulated from his diverse culinary background into the kitchen at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station. His menu highlights local and seasonal fare while encompassing global cuisine.


Marcello Avitabile, Master Pizzaiolo at Officine Buona Forchetta

Italian native and Master Pizzaiolo Marcello Avitabile helms the gold tiled ovens at the newly opened Officine Buona Forchetta. A spin-off of the beloved South Park eatery, Marcello’s signature Neapolitan pizzas have catapulted the neighborhood restaurant to the front pages of The New York Times, the Where to Eat Pizza book, and Sunset Magazine, among others.

Now a five-time World Pizza Champion, including two championships for gluten free crust, Marcello has turned his attention to the highly anticipated opening of Officine Buona Forchetta in Liberty Station, where his top-secret family recipe has spawned legions of hungry fans and dough heads the world over. Characterized by a thin, charred and blistered crust, Marcello has unveiled new vegan and vegetarian-friendly Neapolitan pies, along with a ‘pizza el metro,’ a completely customizable pie that tops out at nearly two feet long.


Daniel Diaz, Executive Chef at Corvette Diner

Daniel Diaz, Executive Chef for the Corvette Diner, is the longest tenured Heart of the House employee with the legendary Cohn Restaurant Group. Originally from Cuernavaca, Mexico, he has been at the Corvette Diner since 1999, where he employs his skills as a self-taught chef and enjoys leading the team, making the kitchen run smoothly, and knowing the guests are enjoying their meals. Daniel’s talent and dedication to his employees and guests have enabled the Corvette Diner to win numerous awards and recognition for being the best family dining restaurant in San Diego.

Vote Here for Your Favorite Chef in Liberty Station