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Gregory Chavez on Real Food for Real People

Hey there, it's Industry Dish, a bi-weekly feature on Eater San Diego. In this space, our town's restaurant and bar pros weigh in on their favorite eats and drinks, give their thoughts on local food trends and talk about what it's like to work in the San Diego community. Know an industry pro who wants to do some sharing? Let us know.

ChefGregoryChavez.jpg[Gregory Chavez of Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge]

Executive Chef Gregory Chavez is a San Diego native and an alumnus of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Before he took the helm at Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge in Coronado, Chavez worked as part of the kitchen staff who opened A.R. Valentien at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, served as sous chef at The Hotel Del's 1500 Ocean and was most recently the sous chef at The Fishery in Pacific Beach. A proponent of seasonally-driven cuisine, he shared his thoughts on molecular gastronomy with Eater and tells us where, and what, he likes to eat in his free time.

What's your favorite thing on your menu right now and why?
I am in love with our Moroccan Spiced Lamb. The lamb is tender and crispy at the same time. It is served on a bed of turmeric couscous with roasted vegetables and a Kalamata olive and feta cheese vinaigrette. We use a popular spice mixture called Ras el Hanout that plays a huge part in Moroccan cuisine. When we pick the dish up, we sauté the lamb and toss it in the spice mixture. The aroma that fills the kitchen is awesome. I love the flavors and the colors of this dish.

Where do you eat when you're not working?
Tajima Izakaya in Kearny Mesa. The food is great! I love that they are open late so every once in awhile, I will go there after I am done with my service at Leroy's and just have a great meal. A must for me every time is a bowl of ramen. I love the Tajima Original with stewed pork belly and soft boiled egg. The Kimchee Pork Udon is super simple, but such a great dish. When they have live spot prawns, I always get an order of those too. They sauté the tail and serve it on a plate with the head and legs still moving. Once you have eaten the tails, they come and take the plate away and fry the head in the kitchen and serve that to you with a dipping sauce. ? good stuff!

And Las Cuatro Milpas in Logan Heights is hands down one of my favorite places to eat. It's the only time I eat tacos for breakfast. I always get Chorizo Con Huevo with a scoop of the best rice I have ever tasted - sorry Mom! The tortillas are made there at the restaurant, so they are served as they are made. Super fresh! To those who have not had the opportunity to try this local gem, go! It's a little divey, but it doesn't matter. Get there early because there is always a line.

Anything that you're "over", in terms of played-out restaurant and food trends or ingredients?
Two words - Molecular Gastronomy. A wise man once said "real food, for real people."

I ate at Alinea, back in 2007. It was by far one of the best meals and restaurant experiences I have had to this day. The restaurant itself was beautiful, the service was out of this world and the food was amazing! I have no regrets about eating there. Everything was perfect. I just have no desire to go back. I would rather go and try another restaurant. That style of food is just not for me.

Do you have a wish or request for the San Diego food scene or local diners?
Go out and eat more!

What makes cooking in San Diego different than other cities you've worked in?
I was born and raised in San Diego, so I have much love for this city. Not that I cook any differently or any less when cooking somewhere other than San Diego, but it just means more here.

I've left San Diego a few times and cooked in some amazing places, but I keep coming back home. I have worked under some really great chefs here, and they have always had an open door to their guests, staff and friends. I feel like that's unique to San Diego and I'm glad to be part of it.
· Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge [Official Site]
· All Industry Dish Interviews on Eater San Diego [~ESD~]

The Fishery

5040 Cass Street, , CA 92109 (858) 272-9985 Visit Website

A.R. Valentien

11480 North Torrey Pines Road, , CA 92037 (858) 777-6635 Visit Website

Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge

1015 Orange Ave Coronado, CA 92118 (619) 437-6087