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Meet the Celebrity Chefs of San Diego

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BlaisAtBeard 252 PicmonkeyRichard Blais heads the kichen at Juniper + Ivy

by Candice Eley

February 4, 2016 - With a booming culinary scene, San Diego is currently home to some of the nation's most talked about gastronomic stars. In recent years, San Diegans have been crowned champions of nationally renowned cooking shows, and established celebrity chefs excited by the city's culinary energy have been relocating to the region.

In addition to several chefs that have appeared on current and past seasons of the acclaimed Top Chef series, many other culinary celebs call San Diego home, including Claudia Sandoval, winner of MasterChef Season 6, and Nathan Odom, MasterChef Junior Season 3 winner. The region's culinary community was celebrated on Jan. 14, when San Diego was featured on Top Chef Season 13, but visitors can enjoy the buzzworthy culinary scene any day of the year. The following are a few of San Diego's most famous chefs and the restaurants where visitors can experience their culinary prowess first-hand.

Winner of Top Chef All-Stars, chef Richard Blais helms the highly acclaimed Juniper + Ivy in San Diego's vibrant Little Italy neighborhood. Described as a “left coast cookery” with cuisine focused on locally sourced products, the high-end dining destination features innovative menu items like steak tartar toast topped with quail egg, cotija and jalapeno. Blais recently added a second San Diego spot, The Crack Shack, an all-about-chicken-and-eggs outdoor casual eatery, located next door to Juniper + Ivy, that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with free range, non-GMO eggs and organic ingredients sourced from local farms. Blais currently serves as a guest judge on Top Chef. This season, the series embarks on a road trip across the state of California and makes a stop in San Diego, which will air on Jan. 14 at 10 PM ET/PT on Bravo.

Winner of Top Chef Season 3, chef Brian Malarkey opened his flagship Searsucker restaurant in San Diego's bustling Gaslamp Quarter and has since expanded to multiple locations. Visitors to San Diego can sample the Malarkey culinary experience at both the downtown Searsucker or its second location in Del Mar, as well as at the chef's two other San Diego restaurants, Herringbone in La Jolla and Green Acre in Sorrento Valley.

Trey Foshee of Galaxy Taco PicmonkeyTrey Foshee of La Jolla's Galaxy TacoTop Chef Season 5 cheftestant Rich Sweeney has been the culinary talent behind many local restaurants since graduating from the San Diego Culinary Institute nearly a decade ago. Recently, Chef Sweeney was named executive chef of Waypoint Public, a casual bistro and bar devoted to celebrating California culture, cuisine and craft beer. The neighborhood venue in San Diego's trendy North Park neighborhood is loved by locals for its high-quality, yet approachable, specialties like charred octopus and fried green tomatoes, along with 30 taps of fresh craft beer.

Chef Javier Plascencia is known for his restaurants on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, including Misión 19 in Tijuana and Romesco in San Diego's South Bay. His latest venture, Bracero Cocina de Raíz, in San Diego's Little Italy serves modern Mexican cuisine and features an open terrace; a raw/ceviche bar; a taco space with fresh hand-made tortillas; two bars featuring tequila, mescal, craft beer and wine programs, and a Caja China-fueled open kitchen where the chef creates Baja-inspired small and large plates like shrimp and bone marrow sopes and Caja China lamb roasted asado. One of the region's most talked about culinary talents, Chef Plascencia has been featured on prominent culinary programs like The Taste and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Chef Plascencia will also serve as a guest judge this season on Top Chef when the culinary series stops in San Diego.

Chef Trey Foshee embodies the Cali-Baja culinary style that San Diego is known for, blending the freshest local produce, fish and meats with Mexican influences. This cuisine can be enjoyed at his newest restaurant, Galaxy Taco, in the scenic coastal neighborhood of La Jolla Shores. Notable dishes include tacos filled with lamb barbacoa; potato with green chorizo spice, kale and queso fresco, and grilled avocado tacos. Handmade tortillas crafted with fresh masa are pressed on-site daily. Chef Foshee's talents caught the eye of Andrew Zimmern, who featured Foshee in his Bizarre Foods America series in 2012.

Su-Mei Yu brought her Thai heritage to San Diego's culinary community in 1985 and has been beloved by locals—and the media—ever since. Su-Mei has appeared on shows including Martha Stewart Living, Home Cooking on PBS, Cooking Live on the Food Network and more; her recipes have been featured in Food & Wine magazine and Fine Cooking. Visitors to San Diego can taste Su-Mei's celebrated Thai cuisine at Saffron in San Diego's Mission Hills neighborhood.

Editor’s Note: If you’re thinking of visiting San Diego you may want to visit their Tourism Authority at www.sandiego.org. You also may want to check out Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options.

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