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Michelin Star Chef Opening North Park Eatery

RESTAURANTS: First U.S. Location for Baja-Based Restaurateur

Drew Deckman, who won a Michelin star in 2000 as a young chef in Germany, plans to open a new restaurant next Spring in North Park that he’s calling Watershed.

Drew Deckman
Owner
Watershed and Deckman’s en el Mogor

Deckman and his wife, Paulina, have run Deckman’s en el Mogor restaurant in Valle de Guadalupe for a dozen years.

“About half of our customers are either from San Diego or Southern California and I really like San Diego,” Deckman said. “It’s a city that I want to be part of.”

Paulina Deckman does everything in the Baja restaurant but cook, from managing the staff to social media and greeting guests and will be doing the same in San Diego.

“I’m kind of the front of the house,” Pauline Deckman said.

Drew Deckman said it took them eight years to find a San Diego site for their restaurant.

“We had three or four other projects that just didn’t really make it, didn’t get to the finish, and this one fell on our lap,” he said, adding that he’s taking over a building at 3131 University Ave. that had been Hoxton Manor, which closed in November.

“Basically, we’re doing some aesthetic renovations and probably have a 90-day renovation period,” Deckman said.

He didn’t have an estimate on what the renovations will cost, but said, “It’s not going to be that much. The kitchen is already in place, all the plumbing, all the (exhaust) hoods.”

Right Place, Right Time

Deckman said that the name and idea for Watershed “were derived from our desire to preserve the actual watershed of Southern California and northern Baja, but also to mark a watershed moment in my life, to create an inspiring restaurant in the U.S. that defines the future of sustainable dining.”

He plans to donate 1% of the restaurant’s monthly revenue to help farmers implement carbon farming projects through grants in partnership with Zero Footprint, an international nonprofit that promotes farming practices that target climate change.

Deckman liked North Park for his new restaurant because it has “a neighborhood feel to it.”

“It just felt like the right place at the right time,” Deckman said. “I’m not sure that I could deal with the craziness of opening a restaurant in the Gaslamp (Quarter).”

Watershed will have seating for about 100 diners in the main restaurant on the first floor of the three-story building and about 25 persons in a rooftop patio, plus a 10-seat chef counter on the first floor.

A private dining room is planned for the second floor.

The design of Watershed is by Megan Power, principal interior architect and designer at Workind Studio, based in Encinitas.

Details are still being worked out, but Deckman said that the design will be “a nice combination of wood tones, earthy colors, good lighting.”

“We’re not trying to do something that’s trendy or a fad,” Deckman said, adding that he wants “a comfortable place where you feel like you’re at home.”

In Mexico, he cooks outdoors.

“We’re open-air down there underneath some pine trees, and everything down there is wood- fired,” Deckman said.

The new restaurant will use locally sourced livestock, seafood, and fruits and vegetables, including some grown on VV Ranch in Ramona, where Deckman has a five-acre plot.  It will also have wine produced in a winery Deckman owns in Baja.

The menu at Watershed will feature seaweed and less used seafood such as Grondin, mackerel and hake, along with farmed shellfish including Kumai oysters, Whale’s Cove mussels and Venus clams.

“We’re going to have a very fluid, changing menu,” Deckman said. “Right now, the plan is between seven and nine dishes that change on a daily basis. We may not change the entire menu every day, but basically, the market is going to tell us what we need to produce.”

American Roots, International Education

Deckman grew up in Georgia and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.

“I just started cooking and I really liked it, and then had the opportunity to go to Europe for six months, and that’s what I thought, I was going to be there six months and I ended up staying 10 years,” Deckman said. He worked throughout Europe with a number of renowned chefs, including Madeleine Kamman, Jacques Maximin and Paul Bocuse.

“That was my schooling,” Deckman said.

Deckman downplays getting a Michelin star at the age of 29.

“I wasn’t ready for that kind of success in my life, and it took me a few years to get back with my feet on the ground,” Deckman said. “It’s not something that I want people to focus on.”

Provide good food in a nice setting with good service, and the awards “basically come naturally and come automatically if you’re doing a good job,” Deckman said.

Deckman has leased an apartment in San Diego to oversee the opening of Watershed and said that once it’s up and running, he’ll divide his time between San Diego and Baja.

Deckmans Restaurant Group

Founded: 2010
Headquarters: Valle de Guadalupe, Baja, Mexico
Owners: Drew Deckman and Paulina Deckman
Business: restaurants
Employees: 90
Website: www.deckmans.com
Contact: info@deckmans.com
Notable: Chef is Michelin-starred and World’s 50 Best Latin America recipient

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