Like a local
What started as a two-minute cooking segment on
local morning news blossomed into a 30-minute
show called Sam the Cooking Guy, an irreverent
mix of humor and easy-to-replicate recipes. Next,
he landed on Discovery Health with Just Cook
This! Known for his philosophy of “big in taste
and small in effort,” Sam Zien has 15 Emmy
Awards, three cookbooks and a dozen visits to
the Today show, and his You Tube channel has
over 106,000 subscribers. He’s also just opened his
first restaurant, Not Not Tacos, at the new Little
Italy Food Hall, where he’s been honored as the
“food ambassador.” thecookingguy.com
Tell us about the food hall. It’s six restaurants—
Wicked Maine Lobster, Roast Meat & Sandwich
Shop, Ambrogio15, Mein St. Asian Kitchen, Single
Fin Kitchen, and Not Not Tacos—all in one spot
along with a house bar. Eat, drink, chill, relax on the
piazza, enjoy the amazing fountain—it’s stupid good.
What’s the story behind Not Not Tacos? I was talking
with the folks behind the food hall about the makeup
of the restaurants one day and I said, “I’ve had this
idea about a taco place that doesn’t really serve
normal tacos.” And after a little more conversation,
it just happened.
Are there pop-up chef demonstrations? Hell yes!
The piazza will be home for all kinds of things:
live music, yoga classes and cooking demos with
a variety of chefs.
What’s your take on the San Diego food scene? Look,
we’ve always had great Mexican food here, but chefs
like Jason McLeod, Brian Malarkey and Richard
Blais are adding to the credibility by giving
us a much more mature level of food, still in a
creatively playful San Diego kind of way. It’s like
people are finally starting to take us more seriously.
What are your go-to restaurants besides your own?
Any from the chefs I mentioned, along with Campfire,
Fung Fung Yuen or China Max for dim sum, TJ
Oyster Bar, and Nico’s for their chorizo burrito.
Your three favorite things to do in San Diego?
Scope out the different neighborhoods, shop the
farmers markets and cook with family and
friends in our backyard.
How about your preferred place to go food shopping?
Specialty Produce for fruit and vegetables and
Catalina Offshore for seafood.
Any food adventures to share? The greatest
food adventure we have starts 20 minutes from
downtown, in Tijuana. Talk about a food revolution!
And then a little bit farther south gets you into
gorgeous Guadalupe Valley—with crazy good food,
wine, scenery and wonderful people. I love it there.