Mike Madriaga 9:30 a.m., Nov. 23
Barron San Diego's Latest Kitchenless Chef
When the Cohn Restaurant Group brought aboard executive chef Daniel Barron, a chef who treats his kitchen like a laboratory for scientific experimentation, he seemed an odd hire. And not just for the restaurant he'd helm, Blue Point Coastal Cuisine on the corner of Fifth and Market in the Gaslamp...for their entire company.
Not since the days when Deborah Scott was bringing her then unique Asian/Coastal Cali cuisine to the masses has the CRG been cutting edge - and that's worked for them big-time! They know San Diego and, more importantly, they know tourists. It would appear the latter make up the majority of the clientele at Blue Point, which makes it all the more strange that they'd try to attract conventioneers and snow-evading vacationers with gastronomy a la molecular.
Though I didn't find it as consistent or satisfying as I'd hoped, Barron's cuisine was always daring and, in San Diego, where copycats dominate the restaurateuring sect, having the stones to take food beyond the entry level pablum being served everywhere else is admirable.
So, it was a bit of a bummer to find out that chef Barron and the Cohns have decided to call it quits. It's a mutual parting of ways, but in the end, that means little to our scene. Barron is the latest in a growing line of chefs to find themselves with a job and with, frankly, very few prospects.
A line cook at a burger joint or some hack braising short ribs all the live long day has a better chance of getting a job these days than a truly qualified, innovative, top name toque. I know of several, all of whom want nothing more than to stay in San Diego and serve top quality food. Unfortunately, many will be forced to move on by the lack of restaurant owners willing to erect anything not involving descriptors like "upscale comfort," "elevated bar snack," "gourmet burger," or any flimsy use of the terms "fresh," "seasonal," "local," "sustainable," "organic" or "responsibly sourced" (shouldn't every restaurant have at least four of these going for them as a general rule?).
For so long, San Diego was the type of place that held zero appeal for top caliber chefs. Now, we're reeling in a number of talented and/or promising professionals only to rip the hooks out of their mouths and leave them to flounder without oxygen on the deck while we go off to get lunch at Rubio's for the umpteenth-kajillion time. Chefs deserve better than that and it's too bad this square peg found himself trying to shimmy through a round hole. If only there were more round holes in SD.