Founding chef Claudette Zepeda is stepping back from running the kitchen at Vaga and handing over the reins to new executive chef Ananda Bareño, who will oversee all culinary operations at the Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, which includes a poolside bar, ground floor cafe, and in-room dining as well as the anchor restaurant.
After attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Bareño’s work in the industry began over 25 years ago at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego where she was sous chef before launching a global career that includes chef de cuisine posts at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in Amman, Jordan. In 2014, the chef and her family returned to San Diego where she served as executive chef for a restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe.
Zepeda, a James Beard Awards semifinalist, created a highly-personal menu for the North County property’s anchor restaurant which helped it earn a spot on Esquire Magazine’s 2021 list of the 40 Best New Restaurants in America. She will stay on with Alila Marea Beach as a chef consultant, collaborating with Bareño on seasonal menu changes, and tells Eater that she’ll be appearing as a guest judge on the upcoming Houston-based season of Top Chef and will be part of the featured lineup at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic set for June.