San Diego chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins has been nominated for a James Beard Award. This is big, big news for San Diego’s food scene.
The James Beard Awards are the Oscars of the U.S. restaurant world. The highest award-thingy for the best chefs in the country, given out by the organization that’s done more for U.S. food, chefs, and restaurants than any other. The top food events in the country will often advertise chefs as "James Beard-nominated." The award is so rare, even nominations carry weight.
Yet, in its 28-year history, no San Diego chef nor restaurant has ever won the award. If Claudette wins, she would be the first.
Claudette spent months during the filming of Top Chef Mexico visiting local villages and asking permission to use/honor their recipes at El Jardin. She’s growing rare Mexican produce in her on-site garden, plus many of Dan Barber’s seeds. It’s not that she can really, really cook (she can). It’s that she dug extraordinarily deep into her Mexican roots, found the nearly-lost recipes, and brought them to a new level with her skills.
On March 21, chef Claudette and I will host a dinner at El Jardin for San Diego Magazine Insiders. At the dinner, I’ll ask Claudette to share the real stories (I’ve told her she’s got to include the embarrassing ones) about her life in food and TV. In good faith, I’ll share mine. Chef has created a three-course meal, plus craft cocktails.
I urge you to join us, and we can all wish Claudette luck in becoming San Diego’s first James Beard Award winner.
Not an Insider? Join here and the invite will be sent your way.