The Wheel Stoneware

Michael Totah inside The Wheel, which opened in Encinitas in 1988

Even Instagram’s algorithm knows Michael Totah’s obsession: “All it shows me are plates.” For restaurants, presentation matters. We eat with our eyes first. Fine china’s too “pinkies up”; Michelin chefs are serving duck confit in Frito bags and it works. But in the silty haze of this old warehouse, Totah’s become revered in chef circles for his warmer, souful, one-of-a-kind creations.

“Yeah, all by hand—still,” laughs the potter, who opened The Wheel as a tiny art gallery behind Leucadia Cyclery in 1988. After a sushi chef asked him to make a sake carafe, word spread fast and far. If you find yourself saying “cool plate” at Animae or Rancho Valencia or most Vegas casinos, that’s a Totah. It takes “locally grown” down to the vessel itself.

“Time doesn’t exist at the wheel,” he says. “You get lost in it.”

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