"Another major difference here is that I'm changing my proteins a lot. At Arterra, I'd buy certain fish that I knew were very forgiving, that the cook couldn't overcook. There, I built in a margin for error, because when you get busy, something may sit in a pan for a minute too long. You can be the best cook in the world, but you want the window [of cooking time] to be a little bigger on your proteins. Here, we're just trying to group a smaller amount in each fire and trying to move them quicker. And in doing that, we can use a lot of local product, all the local fish -- I've done blue-nose bass, white sea bass, local halibut. In the six months I've been here, I've used more different proteins than I did in my four and a half years at Arterra. It's not a matter of the size of the room. We actually do a higher volume here -- we can fit more people into our dining room, because the tables are closely spaced. I like the fact that it's sort of bustling, and people know each other and get up to say hello. I like that feel.
"We're a work in progress. Every day I think we get a little better, as things are kind of settling in with the crew in the kitchen. Trying to pull all this together on a shoestring budget, it's been an interesting ride so far.... What I'm doing today is not necessarily what I'm doing tomorrow. A lot of chefs have a seasonal rotating menu. That's the safe way to do things, but I'd rather put a gun in my mouth, 'cause what drives me is creativity and improving every day. My style today probably won't be my style ten years from now. Every day we'll change something, tweak a little something. I put three new things on last night, and I saw room for improvement, so tonight I'm going to tweak things on two of those dishes. Or maybe I just like the way something comes out, and I'll leave it on for a few weeks. Even though the menu is printed every day around 5:00 p.m., it's not printed in stone -- sometimes garnishes change a little even after the menu is printed. You've got to have fun with me.
"People ask me, why don't I go to New York or San Francisco or Las Vegas? But there's no place else on earth I'd rather be than here. Why can't people do great food in this town? Chefs used to come here and then leave within months, because their vision wasn't being executed -- it was just too tough to train people on the job under the pressure of getting the food out. But the labor force has gotten a lot better here in the last ten years. There are culinary schools popping up in this town, or people are going to school in San Francisco or New York and then coming back home to work. These people aren't just earning a paycheck, they're cooking because they have a passion for it, and those are the sort of people I like to have in my kitchen. San Diego is getting there, and I love to be part of it, and I'm not going anywhere else."