Walter Mencken 10 a.m., July 23
Musical Chef Shuffle at Donovan's Prime Seafood
There’s a reason The Reader has a blog subcategory called Musical Chefs. The local restaurant industry is huge and constantly in flux.
Finding the right chef for one’s venue can be difficult. Maybe they have the chops, but the wrong personality or style to suit an eatery’s concept. Perhaps they have great ideas, but lack the ability or experience to realize them. Maybe their food is excellent, but they lack leadership skills or the ability to manage a kitchen from a logistical or financial aspect. Or, maybe they look great on paper, interview well, but possess any of the countless negative traits or habits that are deal-breakers in any profession, kitchen or otherwise.
Bottom line, sometimes things don’t work out and a business owner has to change course. This isn’t a phenomenon that applies exclusively to chefs. It can be true for any member of a restaurant team, including those in the front of the house and the individuals who manage them. The importance of a quality general manager cannot be understated in the restaurant game.
Last August, I reported chef Augie Saucedo was making a move from chef de cuisine at The Shores Restaurant to become the executive chef at Sycuan Resort. Not long after, in December, I announced the arrival of another chef de cuisine, Kemar Durfield of The Grand Del Mar's Addison, had been appointed as the exec at the brand new Donovan’s Fine Seafood.
Today, both toques’ names resurface in the Musical Chefs news stream. Saucedo is now the executive chef at Donovan’s Prime Seafood. As I mentioned in February, he was putting out good food at Sycuan, but in relative obscurity. Most people who headed out to the expanses of El Cajon were bypassing his dining room at the resort to go pull slot handles (well, pressing buttons is more accurate nowadays…gotta say I miss yanking on that bandit’s singular arm) at the casino. This will certainly be a more high profile gig for Saucedo, who is taking over for the recently departed Durfield.
Donovan’s Prime Seafood also added another veteran to their team, having recently hired long-time San Diego dining industry fixture Mike Mitchell (formerly of Oceanaire, Burlap, and Gingham) as their GM. It’s clear experience was important to restaurant ownership and Mitchell brings plenty. In addition to seasoning received at high-volume eateries, his resume also sports previous experience as a past president of the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association.
No one chef or manager can guarantee the future success of a business, but the addition of Saucedo and Mitchell certainly provide Donovan’s a prime opportunity. Donovan’s Prime Seafood is located at 333 Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp.