Chef Marks the Spot
By Sarah Daoust
Miguel Valdez is the kind of chef we love to love. Both humble and soft-spoken, he’s a breath of fresh air in a culinary world packed with competing egos seeking “celeb chef” status. Born and raised in the tough streets of San Diego’s Logan Heights neighborhood, Valdez recently took the reigns as executive chef at popular Hillcrest bistro 100 Wines from Katherine Humphus (a fellow Cohn Restaurant Group chef who now oversees the kitchen full-time at B0-beau Kitchen & Bar).
“Taking on this new role, I had some big shoes to fill,” says Valdez, who never went to culinary school and instead taught himself to cook by studying the science of organic produce and cultivation while working as an agricultural assistant at Washington State University. He later worked under Chef Eric Bauer at now-defunct Anthology, and most recently worked as a line cook at the Red Door in Mission Hills.
“Now to be an executive chef with the Cohn Group is such a huge opportunity,” he says. “The support from my family, friends and the community has been just awesome. And I have two sons who I want to make proud.”
100 Wines’ casual-cool wine bar ambiance and European-infused comfort food-style cuisine remains mostly the same, with several new dishes by Valdez sprinkled throughout the menu. Our favorite new additions include: the grilled, 10-ounce coulotte steak, served on a bed of celery-root mash, topped with a fried egg and accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts; the marinara flatbread with Spanish chorizo, manchego, pickled red onion and tomato jam; and the roasted bone marrow with brown butter, capers, shallots, garlic and caramelized onions, served with toasted ciabatta. And fans of the crispy cauliflower appetizer need not worry; the cult-followed dish—embellished with pancetta, parmesan shavings and balsamic port reduction—remains untouched on the menu. Valdez appears to already have mastered leaving well enough alone, while subtly making his own mark.
1027 University Ave., Hillcrest, 619.491.0100, cohnrestaurants.com/100wines