Todd Allison, executive chef for live music venue and supper club Anthology, was born and raised in Coronado but left the area for 12 years to further his culinary education. Now he's back in San Diego and rockin' and rollin' in the kitchen.
Q: Why did you feel you needed to leave San Diego to become a chef?
A: I left San Diego 12 years ago, because, at the time, I felt there weren't any great chefs or great talent to learn from. I wanted a challenge and wanted to work for some celebrity chefs so that I could one day become as great as they are.
To do that, I needed to be challenged and yelled at by a big French chef and be threatened and learn what it was like to be in a serious professional kitchen.
I think if I had stayed in San Diego, I would have stayed in my normal rut of surfing and hanging out with my friends and just going to work for a paycheck.
Q: How has the food scene changed?
A: It feels like night and day from when I left to now that I have returned -- just look at downtown and the skyline. When I left we never went downtown, and now it's the thing to do: dinner, baseball games, drinks, shows, etc. There is definitely a larger focus on the farm-to-table concept and much more of a knowledgeable palate in the San Diego clientele. The whole organic/sustainable movement has really challenged chefs to compete and be creative while also running a business. There are a lot of great farmers down here (more than I expected and I grew up on one). I believe that the new food TV shows have helped every major city's dining scene take it to the next level and inspire chefs to be more creative and challenge themselves, plus their patrons.
Q: How much of cooking is technical and how much is intuitive?
A: I guess you could say it's 50/50. You need to know proper terminology, cooking times/temps, ratios, the science of what works and what doesn't, math skills, etiquette, present yourself in a professional manner. On the other hand, you are an artist with a creative palate, you have a sense of what foods marry well with each other. But you also need to know how to coach a cook that is "in the weeds" and about to quit and let him know the situation is not that hard -- it's only cooking, plus the knowledge on how to organize complete chaos and make it look like a symphony.
Q: What do you do to get the word about San Diego's food scene to visitors?
A: I believe San Diego is already doing what we need to do to get the word out. We are bringing great chefs here that are passionate about what they do and the chefs that have been here are stepping their game up to show that we have a great dining experience to explore. If anything, we should intrigue more chefs/restaurateurs to open their own venue in San Diego.
Q: Do your menu choices reflect the music being performed on Anthology's stage?
A: The music helps motivate and challenge me to do dishes or styles of cuisine I have never done before. I enjoy it a lot because there is so much out there that I don't know.
Q: As far as food, what do you think San Diego does better than anyone else?
A: San Diego is different in that we are not this huge city, we are more intimate and have these close relationships with our local farms and prefer to use local ingredients to show visitors that we have an amazing dining experience to be had.
Q: As a musician, do you think you'll ever leave the kitchen to perform on Anthology's stage -- even for one night?
A: I do like to strum on a guitar or pounce on the keys of a piano here and there, but my talents are better off in the kitchen, so I don't believe you will see me on the stage unless I'm giving a cooking class.
Celebrate the 10th annual Dos Equis XX Monster Bash Presented by Malibu Rum from 6 p.m. to midnight, Oct. 30, at Seventh Avenue between Market and J streets and Island Avenue between Sixth and Eighth avenues.
The event features live music, haunting appearances and a $3,000 cash grand prize for the Monster Bash costume contest.
Visit sandiegomonsterbash.com for more info.
Hospitality management and consulting experts will discuss strategies and solutions for the hospitality market on Nov. 3 and 4 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Del Mar.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In celebration of San Diego Beer Week, North Park's Urban Solace is holding its first annual Beer Walkabout. The event will take place from 5:30-9 p.m., Nov. 9, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the San Diego Coastkeeper.
The WalkAbout features five stations with three-ounce tastes of 10 craft beers poured by their brewers and served with specially-made tastes by Urban Solace founding partner and chef Matt Gordon.
The event is $40/person, plus tax and gratuity.