San Diego "I've lived in San Diego for about two years, and I've been working at JRDN for just about a year now," he says. "I'm from Wildwood, New Jersey, and I worked in Cape May, a very Victorian resort town. I started out working in restaurants washing dishes when I was 14, and when I was about 17 my cousin opened up a tavern. He offered me a job and asked if I wanted to cook or wash dishes. I asked, 'Which gets paid more?' 'The cook!' I started there and stayed and just fell in love with cooking. I ended up going to school in Florida at the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute of Culinary Arts, did a two-year program, and moved back to Cape May, where I worked at the Pelican Club. Then I moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and worked in the Peninsula Grill in the Planters Inn -- it's a Relais and Châteaux restaurant. After about a year I moved back to Cape May and worked at a really nice place called the Washington Inn, very well known on the East Coast, with the largest wine cellar in southern New Jersey. I worked there for two years, then moved out to San Diego. I always wanted to live out here, and finally, financially, I could. I grew up on the beach, then went to school and worked in Florida, another beach. I always loved the beach, so San Diego was another stepping stone.
"I worked at Kensington Grill as a sous-chef when I got here, then I moved over here as a sous-chef, got bumped up to executive sous-chef, and now I'm the chef, for about the last month. Everything's going good so far. I can't complain. We put in new lunch and dinner menus for summer, and we're starting tasting dinners on Sundays, and we're going to have some wine dinners in the fall and change the menu again, keep it seasonal. I have pretty much complete freedom to change the menu; I just have to check it with the management. They said, 'That sounds great, go with it!' They trust me and I trust them. I've got really good relations with my purveyors. Crow's Pass Farm up in Temecula is doing a great job for us. It's really interesting being on this coast, you see a lot of different produce and fish than you do in the East.
"We try to keep it simple, take it back to the roots. I think people have been bombarded in recent years by paragraph-long menu descriptions. We want to cook foods that people can identify and keep it fresh, keep it fun, make the guests feel like they're kids again, smelling something good in the kitchen. Especially being by the beach, we get a lot of tourists, and it gives them a chance to have a nice meal without it being scary for them. We don't have a humongous kitchen or walk-in -- on the other hand, that helps keep our product fresher. We have fish and produce delivered daily. Nothing stays too long in this restaurant."