Last month, Eater San Diego’s 2018 Chef of the Year Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins was nominated for a James Beard Award and now the former “Top Chef” star’s Liberty Station restaurant gets The New York Times treatment with a review out today by James Beard Award-winning reporter and columnist Tejal Rao, the paper’s first California restaurant critic.
It’s the first time The New York Times has reviewed a local restaurant, so let’s hope this all-too-rare showing means that the paper will continue to explore San Diego for future coverage. We’re hearing that Rao made two visits to El Jardin before filing an overwhelmingly positive review, saying that diners will find:
a meal that weaves an epic culinary narrative in finely rendered and often delicious details.
The accolades continue with Rao’s description of Zepeda-Wilkins’ dishes:
It is a glimpse of the Mexican canon, refracted through the lens of a border-kid-turned-chef coming into her full powers, who understands her cuisine as a jumble of Indigenous, immigrant and colonial influences.
Reached for comment, Zepeda-Wilkins said, “I’m incredibly humbled and thankful for the overflowing support and love we’ve received since opening El Jardín. Tejal pierced our hearts with the eloquent words she wrote on our restaurant and what we’re trying to do. I wish my grandma could read the New York Times review — it makes it feel like all the hours I put into the restaurant and missed visits back home weren’t all in vain. I hope to bring food to people’s tables for years to come and to have young cooks see that they too can have their dreams become a reality, regardless of where they come from and because — not despite — of what their story is.”