Award-winning chefs in San Diego

Jun 06, 2019 - Nickie Peña

It’s no secret that San Diego is the Capital of Craft Beer. But, did you know that more award-winning chefs are relocating and calling San Diego ‘home’? Thanks to recent moves and new restaurant openings, the region’s culinary scene is picking up momentum and earning additional praise and accolades.

2019 is the first year in nearly a decade that the Michelin Guide (Think: Oscars or Nobel Prize of food and restaurant experiences around the world) evaluated locations across Southern California. Eight San Diego restaurants were selected for the MICHELIN Guide California 2019 Bib Gourmands, a special category highlighting restaurants that serve high-quality meals at $40 or less. And, Addison at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar is now San Diego’s first Michelin Star restaurant.

Stars and guides aside, here are three more award-winning chefs and restaurants that are raising the bar for culinary experiences in San Diego:

Dishes from El Jardín, Photo credit: El Jardín

Image credit: El Jardín

  1. Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, El Jardín

    – A San Diego native who grew up spending time with family in neighboring Tijuana, Claudette is most recognized for her appearance on Top Chef: Mexico, where she placed sixth and later appearing on season 15 of Top Chef: Colorado. Now executive chef for El Jardín, a modern Mexican restaurant in Point Loma’s Liberty Station community, Claudette’s work earned the restaurant a place on the 2019 MICHELIN Bib Gourmand eateries.

“This is already a win for people that see themselves in my story. The work is still just beginning and I have the best job in the world,” she said to Eater San Diego in response to all her recent awards and recognition.

Il Dandy, Photo credit: San Diego Magazine

Image credit: San Diego Magazine

  1. Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino, Il Dandy

    – The father and son chefs are relocating from Italy to join forces with fellow Calabrians Dario and Pietro Gallo, who operate the already successful Civico 1845 in Little Italy. Prior to San Diego, Ristorante Abbruzzino was the first restaurant from the Calabria region to be awarded a Michelin star. “My brother and I fell in love with San Diego and came here to share our culture, to bring the real Italy — the Italy of 2019. With Il Dandy, we can express the modernity of Italian cuisine,” Dario Gallo tells the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Born & Raised, Photo credit: Consortium Holdings

Image credit: Consortium Holdings

  1. Jason McLeod, Consortium Holdings

    – Spearheading all things culinary for the restaurant group operating Born & Raised, Ironside, Craft & Commerce and more, Jason is a two Michelin star, nationally acclaimed chef, who moved to San Diego from Chicago in 2011. Having also met his wife met in San Diego (talk about ‘life-changing,’ amirite?), Jason left his post at Ria, where he received two Michelin stars during his time there.

Jason McLeod told the Chicago Tribune in 2011: “I’m excited about the move [to San Diego], and I just feel the time’s right.”

Want to learn about more reasons to love San Diego? Head over to and get the full dish.


Other articles you might be interested in: