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The Votes are In! Check out These Restaurants for Your Next Night Out

Written By: Jordan Ligons Favorite Chefs in La Jolla

 

Ah, La Jolla. The sea breeze whisks you away to a mini-paradise every time you drive down Torrey Pines Road. With windows down and stomachs growling, head to one of these delicious spots to satisfy your ocean fix and your taste buds. Everything from Mexican-inspired cuisine to fresh, traditional Indian tapas await you in La Jolla—enjoy!

 

Luisteen Gonzalez,  Puesto

Q: How has growing up in Mexico City influenced your cooking?

Luisteen Gonzalez: In Mexico City, I grew up cooking for my family while they were away at work. This taught me the most important thing about food, which is that it brings people together. I also learned that much of what is authentic Mexican cuisine includes fare that arrived in Mexico from immigrants from every part of the globe. Just like in every national culinary tradition, the meaning of authenticity is complex and fascinating.

Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received from a guest or a staff member?

LG: The best compliment that I have ever received was from a very old friend I recently made a meal for. I made tacos with bright pink tortillas—colored with beets—and she said it was the best meal of her life.

Q: What is your favorite meal to serve? To eat?

LG: My favorite meal to serve is traditional barbacoa, simmered and smoked underground for many hours. The preparation is time consuming, but it’s a beautiful process. My favorite meal to eat is just about anything from Quintonil in Mexico City.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is beginning their culinary career?

LG: To someone beginning their culinary career, I would say: no matter how many techniques you master or accolades you receive, always stay true to the love of food that got you started.

Q: What would you recommend for a first timer at Puesto?

LG: At Puesto, the tacos are the heart of the menu. If it was your first time at Puesto, I would recommend going with your instincts in choosing three of them. Just make sure one is the Filet Mignon Taco with pistachio salsa.

Q: What does it mean to be voted a top chef in La Jolla?

LG: I am honored that my lifelong love of cooking means something to those that come and enjoy it.

 

Christian Fiol, Wheat & Water

Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received from a guest or a staff member?

Christian Fiol: Best compliment I’ve ever had from a guest happened just recently at wheat and water. One of Ted’s friends who happens to be Eric Wolfinger (Tartine alumni and San Francisco resident) was in town and came in for dinner. He had the La Pitza (my Mexican take on a pizza with braised pork shoulder in salsa verde) and he said it was a dish that in San Francisco all food media would be raving about. That really meant a lot to me coming from him and especially because San Francisco is such a good food town.

Q: What is your favorite meal to serve? To eat?

CF: Favorite meal to serve definitely had to be a good bowl of pasta. After spending 4 years at cucina urbana, I just fell in love with making pasta. From start to finish. It’s just a satisfying dish to make and eat. Nothing beats great homemade pasta with a sauce made with great ingredients.

And my favorite thing to eat besides a good pasta bowl is definitely a good ol’ juicy burger. Lots of cheese, lots of bacon. Delicious.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is beginning their culinary career?

CF: One big advice I would give someone starting their culinary career is to not take the days at work for granted. Learn something new every day. And be passionate about it. This industry is not an easy one but as long as you’re passionate and work hard, you will never look at this industry as just a job.

Q: What would you recommend for a first timer at Wheat & Water?

CF: First time at Wheat and Water, you gotta go with the crispy Brussel sprouts and potatoes with a roasted garlic and chile de árbol vinaigrette. This is definitely becoming one of our best sellers. And for pizzas, try the La Pitza. Definitely not a pizza you see every day but everything on it just seems to work great together. This one is becoming everyone’s new favorite, including the staff.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted a top chef in La Jolla?

CF: It means a lot to be voted one of La Jolla’s top chefs. There’s so many very talented chefs in this town, so to be up there with those names, it’s definitely something I didn’t think would happen. I want to thank Wheat and Water for giving me this opportunity and going along with some of my crazy ideas!  

Trey Forshee, George’s at the Cove and Galaxy Taco

Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received from a guest or a staff member?

Trey Forshee: From a guest, the best is when we get them to try something they thought they didn’t like but we are able to turn them around. From a staff member it’s when they go off and find success in the industry after spending time with us.

Q: You’ve been at George’s at the Cove for over 15 years. What is your favorite meal to serve? To eat?

TF: I don’t have a favorite meal to serve or eat although I am partial to vegetables in general.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is beginning their culinary career?

TF: Don’t think about the money, put your head down and work hard and listen hard. Find a good kitchen with good leadership and stay there for a few years.

Q: What would you recommend for a first timer at George’s at the Cove and Galaxy Taco?

TF: Depends on what level of George’s. On the Terrace, I would suggest sitting at our new rooftop bar at sunset and enjoying a cocktail and any of our appetizers. In California Modern, I would suggest the eight course tasting menu to see what we really can do and for Level2, our handcrafted cocktails are excellent. At Galaxy, our house margarita or a great mezcal and the Grilled Octopus Tostada.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted a top chef in La Jolla?

TF:  Honored.

 

Dustin Karagheusian, Catania

Q: Italian cooking has so much history, how do you see it evolving?

Dustin Karagheusian: Italian food is so great because it focuses on respecting its origin and roots. I think the change will come from producing their dishes that have been passed down by sourcing local ingredients and never substituting products that are mediocre. The best thing that chefs can do to move the Italian cuisine forward, is to look back on where it came from. Most of the dishes we create at Catania start with the fundamentals of recipes that date back quite literally to the Roman times. Sometimes you have to look back to move forward.

Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received from a guest or a staff member?

DK: A few weeks ago we had a very busy Friday night service and a table of four came later in the night that gave us the opportunity to show them our style of cuisine and hospitality. What I mean by this is they ordered four courses and honored what our recommended style of dining is, which is sharing each plate as well as taking the servers wine recommendations. I got the opportunity to go out and speak to the guests and they were blown away by the compositions and flavors we had married together. The comment they gave me that really stuck was that this had been one of the best and most memorable nights of their life. I could see and feel their genuine happiness and satisfaction. That is why as chefs we do what we do.

Q: What is your favorite meal to serve? To eat?

DK:  My favorite meal to serve is anything I can prepare for my family. Whether it be the holidays, a birthday or a Sunday, we always find a way to treat ourselves right. My family has always been very partial to anything from the ocean and therefore that is the meal I love to produce. Japanese, Korean and Thai food are some of my favorite foods to eat. These cuisines do a fantastic job of hitting all five tastes on the palate, salty, sweet, umami, bitter and sour.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is beginning their culinary career?

DK: My advice for someone who is beginning their culinary career is to make them fully understand what they’re signing up for. This industry and profession is not for the weak hearted and you have to absolutely love what you do and have multiple reasons for loving it too. It consumes your life, you miss a lot of events with family and friends and you work harder and longer hours than you thought was ever physically possible. But like I said, if you love it enough, you will understand the sacrifice and the reward is incredible.

Q: What would you recommend for a first timer at Catania?

DK: For a first timer at Catania, I recommend they at the very least try our pizza because we’ve put a lot of time and effort into trying to perfect it. The second thing I recommend is for our guests to be adventurous and try something they normally wouldn’t because we prepare dishes that are very approachable. For example, our smoked duck liver mousse and our grilled oysters are two dishes that convert diners to trying new things.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted a top chef in La Jolla?

DK: I definitely feel honored to be voted as one of the top chefs in La Jolla. I have never been one to chase the spotlight or what we now call the celebrity chef lifestyle. I am just happy that everyday I get to share my passion and food with the people that choose to come and experience Catania and everything we have to offer.

 

Hermant and Saransh Oberoi, Masala Street

Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received from a guest or a staff member?

Saransh Oberoi: I think it would have to be about our food being fresh, traditional yet innovative.

Q: What is your favorite meal to serve? To eat?

SO: [My favorite] to serve and cook would be something nouvelle with inspirations from Indian flavors. [My favorite] to eat would be whatever my wife or mum cooks—it’s just love filled goodness.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is beginning their culinary career?

SO: Don’t ever aim for money. Work hard, learn but never give up. Don’t run behind money and pay, it will come after you. I was disabled for almost two years and got back not looking [for it] one bit.

Q: What would you recommend for a first timer at Masala Street?

SO: Start with the small plates—we like to introduce people to Indian foods with our share tapas style plates.

Q: What does it mean to you both to be voted a top chef in La Jolla?

SO: It means the world; there’s so many amazing chefs and restaurants in La Jolla, to be amongst the few feels we have gained the trust and respect of our customers and peers, for that we are truly grateful.

 

 

 

These Top La Jolla Chefs Know Their Food