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Dome Creates Inspiring Evenings For Chef, Diners

The last time local chef Claudette Zepeda worked at Liberty Station was for a short stint last summer at El Jardin Cantina restaurant, previously El Jardin and owned by San Diego-based Rise & Shine Restaurant Group. This was before the company announced it would be shutting the restaurant down for a complete transformation in late August that would give the eatery a new casual concept and leave Zepeda out of a job.

Now, as luck would have it, Zepeda, named a 2019 James Beard Foundation Best Chef (west semifinalist) and a season 15 Bravo’s “Top Chef” contestant, will make her return to the Point Loma destination as the official chef for the pop-up dinner experience, Dinner With A View.

The Logistics

Taking place between Feb. 6 and March 8, Zepeda will prepare a three-course meal featuring meat, fish and vegan options in a full-sized mobile kitchen for all Dinner With A View guests, who will dine inside terrarium-like domes. At $199.99 per dome reservation and $109.99 per dinner reservation per guest, the organization projects it will serve 10,000 to 12,000 patrons during the entirety of the event.

“I was approached for the Dinner With A View pop-up and I was instantly intrigued,” said Zepeda, who grew up between Imperial Beach and Tijuana, Mexico, and attended The Art Institute of California for Culinary Arts. “I had seen the other locations on social media and the fact that it was in Point Loma was definitely something I was interested in. People will get to see another side of my food, and how it has evolved… I will be cooking with flavors that I’ve learned how to harness to their full potential, while also celebrating San Diego’s farms, ranches and seafood.”

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Although further details as to what Zepeda will prepare are still under wraps, Zepeda said she is inspired by the melting pot that is San Diego as well as the whimsical feeling of the domes. To Zepeda’s sentiment, in December, Dinner With A View partner and event organizer, Steve Georgiev, told San Diego Business Journal that “San Diego is a culturally rich city with a huge passion for food” and that “it made perfect sense to bring the event here.”

The Inspiration

Zepeda added that her culinary creations are generally inspired by her Mexican heritage and her upbringing, which she also plans to pull from when preparing the dishes for Dinner With A View.

“I firmly believe that you cannot grow as a human without realizing what helped you get to where you are,” she said. “For me, my exponential growth only happened once I tapped into my history and my family’s roots, which has involved food from the very beginning.”

First U.S. Stop

Dinner With A View’s San Diego edition — the first stop in the U.S. for the pop-up — will feature 33 intimate, clear, frameless geodesic domes and will be located in Liberty Station’s Central Promenade, according to the organization. It was initially a pilot project, first hosted in Ottawa, Canada, according to Georgiev, followed by stops in Toronto and then Montreal in 2019. He said he’d been keeping a close eye on the growth of the San Diego food scene in recent years and knew it was the perfect city for its next pop-up event.

As per the hiring of Zepeda, Georgiev’s hope was to work with a seasoned chef that had not only participated in culinary contests such as “Top Chef”, but also won, he previously told SDBJ. Zepeda seems to be the right fit.

While Zepeda will be busy for the duration of the event, when asked what’s next for her once the pop-up concludes, she said she had no concrete plans yet, but will continue to create culinary goodness as long as she has the opportunity to.

“I was once told not to let the accolades go to your head without giving space for your critics, so while I am eternally grateful for being recognized for our work, that has never been what’s driven me,” she said. “I love history, human connection and the flavors of the world, and that is precisely what will motivate me to keep creating until my hands give out on me.”

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