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Meet Craig Jimenez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Craig Jimenez.

Hi Craig, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I was born and raised in Southeast San Diego and had the pleasure of experiencing a wide variety of family recipes and legendary dishes that survive and continually inspire from those delicious memories. My Korean friend’s family recipe for kimchee, sticky rice cooked in a bamboo weaved basket during the countless backyard bbq drink ups, my lifelong friends’ dad’s recipe for kilawin, exotic fruits from neighbors, weekly block parties and staying over at my cousins house what seemed like a celebration every weekend. As kids in Paradise Hills, we grew up as one large community with doors open and welcoming to share our food.

As I grew older, I found myself at those celebrations, gravitating towards the food and the people preparing it. It was my ice breaker with my aunts and uncles. I started tinkering with cooking while with friends but never thought twice about pursuing it as a career until one of my best friends suggested in conversation, “what our superpower is and how do we further develop that?” My interest piqued and that was the catalyst to my journey to further exploring the food industry.

Forty years later, I’m still curious for those hidden gems and tasty bits that become a defining flavor memory. Those memories allow you to transport yourself to that exact moment and connection. Earmarking the timeline on your palate as it leads you to more delicious conclusions.

In my 20+ years in commercial kitchens, I have been a part of many different aspects of the Hospitality industry, from Casinos, Hotels, Independent Restaurants, Ice Carving, Bakeries, Catering, Fast Casual Counters to my own start-ups and pop-up collaborations. With those experiences, I’m currently responsible for directing all things culinary for a handful of restaurants under the Social Syndicate umbrella. The latest project is a North County flagship Restaurant called Monarch Ocean Pub in Del Mar.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
My biggest challenge is finding the balance between my career as a Chef and time with my family. Restaurants are like kids, and they need just as much time and attention, if not more, as my daughter. The care and love put into a project reflect on your success. I’ve been blessed, my wife has fully supported my passion and together we are able to balance throughout the years and figure out the minutes to keep growing together.

I’ve also been blessed with an amazing family at work. The approach with our Team is to keep that family structure incorporated in our day-to-day to keep things in perspective. A careful balance of some corporate structure to help organize a large team in a busy restaurant but always keeping the focus on people. That’s why we’re all here. We are one family in our communities, cities, earth. I hope our local industry gains back its appeal as a viable career path and way to share your passion and flavors.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Helping to foster interest and progression in Southern California for the Hospitality Industry. All aspects that makeup an experience from the food, the ideas and concepts that transform an area, and most importantly, the people that drive the memories for locals and travelers. Utilizing ingredients as a vessel to create interactive art expression, ultimately providing sustenance and inspiration in something as simple as a quick bite or a planned meal. I’m on a mission to add value and be solution-oriented to make processes more efficient so we have more time to focus on the pleasures of each other’s company over tasty food.

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
Latest book, “The Whole Fish Cookbook” by Josh Niland. Total Game changer on the way we approached seafood!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Camila Badaro Photography

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