Terryl Gavre, writer, food columnist, restaurateur
There is no experience quite like opening your own restaurant. After weeks of last-minute changes, dealing with the unexpected, and worrying about final inspections, one day the Health Department hands you a certificate and, poof, just like that, you’re in business.
Although I had worked for over ten years in the restaurant business prior to opening Café 222, I was a complete novice when it came to owning my own place. Leaky faucets and sneaky salesman and government agencies aside, it’s impossible to know just how daunting opening a restaurant can be until you actually do it.
Lucky for me, soon after I opened my doors, I met experienced restaurateurs such as Ingrid Croce, Kipp Downing, and David Cohn, who were unbelievably generous with their knowledge. They always seemed to be available to take a phone call or lend me bread or coffee filters or some other staple that we ran out of on a busy Sunday.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my restaurant career has been serving on the board of the San Diego chapter o f the California Restaurant Association. Who would have ever thought that the girl who runs a 750 square-foot waffle house would sit with the likes of George Hauer and Bertrand Hug – legendary operators who easily serve 750 meals on a good night?
I have learned that big or small, famous or not, in every single restaurant, every day of the year, the work and dedication is the same. I have also learned that San Diego has a unique restaurant community that supports its members, year after year, and welcomes newcomers with whatever they need – bread, coffee filters, or sage advice.
In this book, Ingrid Croce celebrates those who have built their lives around restaurants. Not only is she one of our city’s most dynamic restaurateurs, she has also somehow managed to find the time to put together this long-overdue homage to the San Diego restaurant community. From all of us, a big thank-you to Ingrid for her dedication, hard work, and enthusiasm.
David Nelson, restaurant critic
San Diego Magazine
Eat a meal in a good San Diego restaurant, and you’ll find that each bite bears the taste of paradise. Our town’s sweet little secret is that hundreds of small farms have sprung up in outlying areas, supplying local restaurants with the finest fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Almost everything on your plate, therefore, has been soaked in the San Diego sun. Many ingredients commonly used in our restaurants are organic, and quite a few are “heirloom” varieties. These foods taste the way they are supposed to taste, unlike the mass-market produce that so sadly transformed the American table some decades ago.
Does the availability of tomatoes that burst with flavor inspired San Diego chefs? You bet it does. And the availability of so much exquisite produce, along with fine local seafood and organic poultry, has resulted in a local cuisine that has gained a national reputation. Creative chefs are eager to work in our city. The marvels they produce are plated not just at swanky eateries, but at relaxed neighborhood joints where everyone knows the food is always good.
In San Diego, the questions is never, “Where can I get a good meal?” but rather, “How do I choose from so much abundance?” As quandaries go, this one’s a winner. Enjoy!