San Diego’s only nomination for a 2012 James Beard Foundation Award went to 37-year-old William Bradley, executive chef at Addison, signature restaurant of The Grand Del Mar. The San Diego native was a semifinalist in the “Best Chef: Pacific category.” But accolades and notoriety of this sort are nothing new for Bradley, whose modest entry to the world of cooking came at a small, family-owned Italian restaurant in Bonita when he was 16 years old and just looking for a job.
From there he transitioned to the Azzura Point restaurant at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort, giving him his first exposure to the French brigade style of cooking with which he’d eventually come to love.
“It commands a huge amount of respect for the product, and the execution of what the product is,” Bradley said. “It was very intriguing to me, and it still is to this day.”
After Azzura Point, he moved to Arizona, working in two restaurants and beginning to garner acclaim from the industry’s top award giver: he was thrice nominated in the James Beard Awards’ category, “Rising Star Chef.” That’s when he came home, opening Addison from scratch.
Modestly, he says his talented Addison staff is very green and still has a lot to accomplish. “For a restaurant at this level, we’re just starting to establish ourselves nationally and internationally, and it takes time,” he said. “It’s going to continue to take time.”
At Addison, he’s been recognized as a grand chef by Relais & Chateaux, one of 160 chefs in the world — and just 17 in the United States and six in California — to wear the honor.
As maybe its most decorated chef, he said the San Diego dining scene is in the midst of an exciting time. “There’s a lot of great culture here,” he said. “You’ve got great ethnic cuisine, to some chefs taking on the whole vegetable-driven cuisine, then some that are very chef-driven, to ones like ours that are very high-end. It’s very diverse.”
For Bradley, it’s the unceasing challenge of incremental improvement and fine-tuning that draws him to the kitchen. Risotto, in that sense, is the dish for which he’d most like to be remembered.
“It’s a very approachable, yet comforting and refined dish,” he said.
“Through years and years of technique and practice, it becomes something so magical, and can be at a small Italian restaurant or a three star Michelin restaurant. It’s a very difficult thing to do very well.”