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San Diego’s Changing Food Scene

Chef William Bradley shares his thoughts and inspiration

Dining at Addison Restaurant includes service on fine china, impeccable attention to detail, a Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine list and painstakingly crafted food. These components are not typically associated with the laid back Southern California beach town of Del Mar, just north of San Diego. But this is how things are done at the restaurant that’s located on the property of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar.

Addison Restaurant

Here, director and executive chef William Bradley’s French cooking with California inflections is savored in a deluxe dining room, complete with double-height ceilings, a roaring almost Xanadu-scaled fireplace, and other luxuries. In the ten years since Bradley has occupied its gleaming kitchen, Addison has earned the highest AAA and Forbes ratings, the first and only restaurant in the San Diego area to do so. For the Collections collaborative dinner series, now in its second year, guest chefs have included Michael Cimarusti of Providence in Los Angeles and New York’s Gabriel Kreuther. Gary Danko will head down from San Francisco to join Bradley behind the stoves on December 10th.

Bradley, a San Diego native and Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef since 2010, talks about what he’s seen change locally over the years, and what inspires him.

Executive Chef William Bradley

What have you seen change in the San Diego food scene?

I left for about 10 years and never thought I would come back here. At the time when I left, I was forced to to pursue cooking elsewhere at the level at which I was searching to do it. The food scene in the United States has tremendously come a long way. It’s evolved so much that San Diego has caught on with that. It’s now known for a lot more variety. Before, an area like downtown San Diego was a tourist trap.

Who are some of your favorite local chefs?

Jason Knibb from Nine-Ten is a great guy, and he does a great job. Trey Foshee has obviously had a big impact on the culinary scene. Carl Schroeder has done a consistent, fabulous job for over a decade. Market’s food has a lot of personality.

Where do you go for inspiration? 

Inspiration comes from the product. I don’t like to go out to other places and feel like I’m being inspired by another chef’s food. I go more out of respect and admiration for the chef. I pick places that I feel have their own style, and where their style is different than mine. So it’s about getting the soul and personality of the chef. One of the last great meals I had for inspiration was at Benu, Corey Lee’s restaurant in San Francisco. It was, technically speaking, one of the most amazing meals I ever had.

How does being in the San Diego area affect fine dining of this caliber? 

We’re rooted in great, genuine service and hospitality. We take the old world, Russian style of service, but we try to modernize it and make you feel comfortable here. The grandeur of the room can be intimidating. It’s important to stay current and fresh, so you don’t get stuffy and dated. We want guests to enjoy themselves the same amount as someone who’s been here 50 times, or for the first time. We treat them all the same and make sure they’re comfortable. 

I think the surrounding area is beautiful, and it’s a destination. So it’s kind of mysterious where we’re located. We’re kind of tucked away.

How do you go about finding chefs to collaborate with on the Collections dinners?

I think it comes down to like-mindedness in terms of technique, approach, and philosophy, which makes for more of a fluid experience for the guest. Most of them are also chefs I’ve known for a while. And we try to do the last one of the year with a legendary, iconic chef.