Buzz hears that San Diego Magazine’s contributing writer David Nelson (and restaurant writer) will be doing a piece about Gavin Kaysen who left El Bizcocho in October to take the prestigious job of executive chef at Café Boulud in Manhattan.  Isn’t it a bit late for the magazine to finally write about Kaysen who last year represented the US at the world chef competition called Bocuse d’Or (in Lyon, France) and earned national attention as one of Food & Wine magazine’s Ten Best New Chefs for 2007?  Too bad the cover of San Diego Magazine’s August 2007 restaurant issue didn’t include Kaysen next to Oceanaire’s executive chef Brian Malarkey–two of this city’s star chefs–while Kaysen was still in San Diego. Nowhere did the issue mention El Bizcocho or Kaysen.  Unfortunately it points up the provincial and political good-ol’ boy thinking that keeps San Diego’s restaurant scene static rather than cutting edge, and why chefs like Kaysen move on to grander cities with more appreciative diners and reviewers. 

A few weeks ago, executive chef Justin Hoehn took his toque from Del Mar’s Paradise Grille to Epazote.  The Grille plans to take its menu in a more casual direction, and Epazote offers Hoehn a broader arena for his creative cuisine.  Hoehn trained at the California Culinary Academy and has put his talents to work locally at Winesellar & Brasserie and La Valencia and Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco.

The Hyatt Regency on Mission Bay opened Red Marlin with chef de cuisine Danny Bannister at the helm.  Barrister formally trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.  In San Diego, his resume includes stints at Laurel, Pamplemousse Grille, and The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro.   The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers bay-side views and a chef’s table near the wine wall of the restaurant.  It’s on Buzz’s list of places to visit.

San Diego is about to host the 2008 Winter Fancy Food Show  this January 13 to 15 at the Convention Center.  This worldwide show features everything from beverages and baked goods to soups and salad dressings along with candy, cheese and coffee–nearly 100,000 specialty food items.  Attendees from specialty food, wine, gift and department stores, supermarkets, restaurants, mail-order and other related businesses, walk the three day show to sample and buy products. 

Buzz wonders where these 20,000 to 30,000 vendors and attendees will spend their restaurant dollars as the show usually occurs in San Francisco or New York City–places known for great eating.  Let’s be clear:  right now, San Diego does not have great eating.  Sure, there are lots of restaurants with fair to good food and service but for the most part, not near the caliber of the other show cities. 

If attendees pull out their Zagat for 2007  they’ll find a handful of places rated no higher than 27 out of 30–far fewer than other cities.  They’ll spend nearly $50 per person (or more) , they will need a taxi or car to get to, among others,  WineSellar & BrasseriePamplemousse Grille, Arterra and El Bizcocho  and will they know the chefs are gone from the latter two? They may find a way to La Jolla for the Marine RoomTapenade or George’s at the Cove.  Close to the Convention Center, they’ll find Ruth Chris Steak House and Rama . Or they’ve heard about others such as Parallel 33,  Modus Supper Club (no working link), but do they know the chef/partners of both have moved on or that  Laurel Restaurant & Bar got a new owner, chef and decor a few years back?  What is clear from reading comments on Zagat, and from the Zagat’s themselves–service is subpar across the country–and San Diego is no exception. 

The recent months have seen chefs who garnered good or great local and national raves–Gavin Kaysen of El Bizcocho (one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2007),  Riko Bartelomo of Asia-Vous, Jason Shaeffer of 1500 Ocean, and the most recent, Brian Pekarcik of Arterra– ditching San Diego for New York, Hawaii, Colorado and Pennsylvania, respectively.  They move on for various reasons, but underlying anything personal is the lack of support from the local press who, for the most part, don’t really educate the readers to what makes a great restaurant–be it the hole in the wall or the jazzy newcomer.  Nor does the local chapter of the California Restaurant Association further an atmosphere of greatness either as Buzz noted in July.  Of course, cities like New York and San Francisco have public transportation and are not spread out in the manner of southern California and that does make a bit of a difference.  How far and long are you willing to drive for a meal–at any price– especially if you want to have a drink or two?

So, where in San Diego would you send these food savvy souls to eat?  Besides the usual collection of downtown hotel and convention eateries (and themed Cohn restaurants on nearly every corner)  tell Buzz where you think the show goers ought to spend their restaurant dollars–be it upscale or down–do you have a favorite you think should get some notice?