Executive Chef, El Jardín; former Chef de Cuisine, Bracero
Her neighborhood: Bonita
"I have people over once or twice a month, usually my brother, family, and friends. I do a lot of grilling; sometimes it’s Mexican, sometimes it’s more Asian driven, like cucumber salad with cilantro and Thai flavors. I just open the pantry and think, ‘Yeah, that sounds good!’ But this papas dish is fast and delicious. I grew up eating it for breakfast, and I’m going to do a version at El Jardín. You can add as many toppings as you want—Mexican food is very customizable. It’s like building a taco.
"I have a ’60s ranch-style home and a galley kitchen. The kids will come in and help me, but I kick pretty much everyone else out. I do easy prep so I’m not as stuck in the kitchen. And it’s usually one-bowl meals because I don’t want to have a great evening then turn around and see a mess in the kitchen that I have to deal with. This is maintenance-free entertaining."
Papas with Chorizo Tostada
Culinary Research & Development Chef, CH Projects (Ironside Fish & Oyster, Craft & Commerce, etc.)
His neighborhood: North Park
"During potlucks, I’ll bring a baked pasta dish or entrée with vegetable sides. A lot of my buddies are like, ‘Don’t let Phil cook, he’s going to cook a fancy meal!’ But you can’t eat like you would at a restaurant every day. It’s really rich and a lot of butter. At home, I cook simple. This bucatini is one of the first dishes I learned to make at my first job, at Firefly in The Dana hotel. I made it so much that I never had to write the recipe down. I’ve cooked this for friends and family—definitely a crowd-pleaser, but I usually only cook it for my family now.
"The best part about cooking for my kids is they’re always in the kitchen with me. If you just put a meal in front of them, they’re hesitant because they don’t know what it is. But I have them cut, stir, cook, sauté, and season—that way they’re part of it and more inclined to try things. When we go to the store, I have them pick everything out, like, how do you choose a good tomato or avocado? They know what to touch and what not to touch, what’s hot and what’s not, so they’re more adventurous in the kitchen. For this bucatini, it was really up to them what we ate. Well, it was up to my 10-year-old, Noah. If I listened to the 4-year-old, Isaac, he would have said ‘candy pizza.’"
Bucatini with Maestri Roasted Tomatoes, Italian Sausage, and Chilies
Executive Chef, North Italia (opening this fall); former Executive Chef, Waypoint Public
His neighborhood: Hillcrest
"If I’m working Saturday or Sunday night, inevitably we do brunch, like, how many bottles of Champagne can we line up? It’s usually a little group of friends, and everyone takes turns cooking based on who’s hosting. But whenever I go to someone’s house for the first time, they say, ‘I don’t want to cook for you—you’re a chef.’ I’m just happy someone else is cooking! If you ask for tips, I’ll give my two cents, but I’m not going to tear your food apart. It cracks me up, because the first time I cook for people I’m not pulling out all the stops. Those over-the-top meals, by the time you’re done you feel like you ate a Mack truck. And if everyone’s hanging out having a good time, you don’t want them in a food coma.
"The grilled tri-tip, potatoes, and asparagus, that’s how I like to eat—simple and easy. I get the meat from Siesel’s Meats and Iowa Meat Farms. My husband loves this dish because I can do it all outside, so I don’t make a mess in the kitchen. The clean-up is the cutting board, dishes, and tongs. It’s easy. And we can grill outside pretty much year-long here. It’s San Diego—we should always be outside."
Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Grilled Tri-Tip, with Herbed Potatoes and Charred Lemon Asparagus
Roasted Garlic and Oil
Herbed Pouch Potatoes
Charred Lemon Asparagus
Garlic and Lemon Tri-Tip Roast
Chef de Cuisine, A.R. Valentien
Her neighborhood: East Village
"I start everything with Champagne. I always have some bubbly in the house. But we’re all drinkers. When I have friends over, I like to get the brunt of the cooking done ahead of time because I’m pretty particular and more efficient. Usually someone will ask me if they can help, and they’ll chop a cucumber and then they’ll drink their cocktail, and I’ll finish the cucumber. I do love it when we’re all in the kitchen together.
"This dish is a variation of something on my menu, which is fine dining, so it’s nice to have something relatively simple to prepare that looks gorgeous. It can be as difficult or as easy as you want. At work I make the puff pastry from scratch, but for home I buy sheets, and it’s just as good—we’ll say that. You can also use whatever veggies you have on hand. That’s an easy way to not spend a lot of time at the grocery store. Also, I don’t do everything the day of. If you’re working all week and don’t have a lot of time, do a little every day. Having people over at our place is usually casual and comfortable. It’s about having fun and not slaving away in the kitchen—don’t make it so hard on yourself."