Our Chef on this week’s interview (via Q&A from Lundy Way) is rockin’ his entire career right now, making him a true inspiration to kick start our week. He was named as San Diego Eater’s 2014 Chef of the Year and currently owns 3 bustling restaurants. Clearly, Chad White is not taking any downtime. He’s all in, we LOVE that!
Chef Chad White’s career has circulated around the wonderful world and flavors of Baja California (Mexico). Traveling, cooking, hunting, and fishing around Baja have provided the foundation of his exciting career. His experience includes owning La Justina located in Avenida Revolucion Tijuana, his flagship Común Taqueria in San Diego, and Craft Pizza Company. Regardless of the restaurant, Chef Chad stays true to his style – using local ingredients while maintaining the culture and humbling flavors that Baja cuisine has to offer. By using local and fresh ingredients, he adds a lighter and healthier twist to traditional Mexican food, while never sacrificing flavor.
It’s apparent that Chad has what it takes to be successful as he is proving it in this industry. He found his groove within cooking honest food that people love and stuck to it. He has focus, drive, and determination. He also doesn’t mind taking risks. Really though, San Diego has to be one of the most critical cities of Mexican cuisine – how scary must that have been to open a Mexican restaurant in San Diego? But how can chef Chad be scared when he is full of ambition. Not to mention, he has the passion to stay close to the culture, pays respect to the ingredients, and cooks close to his heart. Read below as we learn more about Chef Chad White:
What was one thing you did to build your dream?
I took action! Most talk about what they are going to do if… well if may never come. If you want something you have to take it.
What was one of the best meals of your life? Who did you share it with?
LuLa Bistro – Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Chef Darren Walsh. With surprises around each corner, each course followed the next like poetry. I was with my friends and partners Shane Brennan & Alfredo Jaime.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out in this industry, what would it be?
Take on each challenge with excitement. Keep your head down, listen, execute orders and work harder, cleaner and faster than anyone around you.
What is your guilty go to pleasure snack?
Street tacos in Tijuana
What are a few of your favorite cookbooks?
Culinary artistry, North, Ad hoc , Atelier Crenn, Manresa
Where do you find your culinary inspiration?
My surroundings, emotion, scenery, touch, sight, sound. I’m moved and inspired by everything around me.
Rene Redzepi mentioned in an interview how much he loves Mexican food and how the cuisine is this GIANT, waiting to be awakened. What do you think the future holds for Mexican Cuisine?
I couldn’t agree more with Chef Rene. Mexican cuisine is tied to so much culture and history, there is real emotion in the food. There are ingredients and depth of flavor that many people have never tried. There is a foul misconception that Mexican food is cheap street food. But there a culinary revolution happening from northern Baja to the southern tip of Mexico that is exciting and vast.
We know the days and hours are extremely long in this industry. How do you successfully deal with fatigue?
It’s all mental! When focused, fatigue doesn’t enter the mind. However, when I get home after a long day, there’s typically not much time between shower and bed.
Tell us more about your flagship Comun, your Baja inspired La Justina, and lastly your Craft Pizza Company.
Común Taqueria is a borderless – communal – small plates eatery, we specialize in Northern Baja Street Food. Naturally it’s a fit as we are located right out side San Diego Padres Petco Park. We wanted a place where friends could gather, people could meet, and we could show the interpretation of flavors of baja. La Justina is a speakeasy gastro bar on Avenida Revolucion we specialize in regional northern baja flavors, often thinking outside the box with out disrespecting culture. Everything is cooked over wood fire either in our wood fired brick oven or crankshaft grill. Our focus is to use as much local as possible to support the local community. Craft Pizza Company is a artisan fast casual from scratch pizza concept in a mall food court setting. We worked closely with the UTC Westfield Mall directors to create a unique and higher quality food option for their shoppers. We are committed to using all natural products, responsibly raised proteins and local produce as much as possible.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your restaurants and push your team to think outside the box?
After my team is properly trained and consistent, I like to challenge them by giving them a ingredient to be the focal point of a dish and to utilize in multiple techniques to create one plate. This forces them to think outside the box. Sometimes it’s a success and sometimes it’s a learning experience. We then go over the process of why or why not this works and what could be done better. Progress is key. If they have nothing to learn I’m now useless to them and they must go.
Tomorrow holds an unknown adventure that I’m eager to explore when I get to tomorrow.
photography by Jim Sullivan, @mediumraw_