CL AUDE T TE
Like a local
Former Top Chef contestant
commands the kitchen at
El Jardín, a colorful, eye-catching
eatery with beautiful indoor and
outdoor spaces in Liberty Station.
Her cuisine pays homage to her
family heritage and the culinary
traditions of Mexico.
Tell us about El Jardín. To me,
El Jardín is a living organism. I
love walking the hallway with the
pictures of the friends and family
who had a hand in the restaurant’s
creation. El Jardín is Mexico in
its decor, ingredients, tortilleras,
cooks and maíz—it’s my greatest-hits list that never ends. The
flavors are meant to trigger
memories of the dishes made by
the abuelitas and mamás of every
Mexican kid—some with a touch
of finesse, others just like home.
What’s most exciting about
opening a restaurant in San
Diego? I am a hometown kid from
Imperial Beach, so it’s rewarding
to have a spot that people can
come visit and see what the hell
I’ve been doing with my life.
Favorite dish? You mean my
favorite kid? It’s very hard to
choose, but I will never tire of the
pozole, and the carne en su jugo.
Three words to describe
El Jardín’s vibe: Relaxed,
Any cool design elements?
The lounge upholstery is a
collaboration with Folk Project’s
Merijam Roelofs. We recycled
midcentury modern chairs
and utilized handwoven Mexican
textiles from the states of Oaxaca
Tells us about the edible garden
table: We’ve set it up as our chef’s
table/private dining room with
live grilling. It’s a nice surprise for
the guests to dine under the stars
surrounded by 10-foot-high corn.
Who has inspired you as a
chef? My two biggest career
influences are chefs Gavin
Kaysen and Javier Plascencia. In
life, I am inspired by art, music,
experiences and being around my
strong female colleagues.
Thoughts on the San Diego
dining scene? San Diego has a
unique geographical advantage,
so we really have the best of the
best at our disposal year-round.
What do you do for fun in
San Diego? I love going to the
ocean, grabbing an ice cream
and walking the pier in
Best places to take out-of-town
guests? I love the cliffs in Ocean
Beach or Torrey Pines. Julian
in the winter for apple pie is
always a hit.
Your secret go-to spot? Punjabi
Tandoor in Miramar is hands-down the best Indian food, in