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May 10, 2010 04:15 PM

Blanca - Jason Neroni out

Jason Neroni has left Blanca due to family reasons (sounded like he wanted to be here) after his wife was unable to find a job in San Diego. Too bad especially when it sounded like he was picking up some steam. Here's to hoping the new chef continues Blanca's trend and good luck to Chef Neroni back in Brooklyn!

h/t Troy Johnson of Modern Luxury

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  1. Sad part from an interview with Jason Neroni:

    "The moment I got here, everyone said, 'Please don't leave, please don't leave.' Our product was fantastic. And I'd say about 20 percent of the people got it. The running joke other chefs told me was that all San Diegans want is fish tacos. It was funny for a moment, and then it got annoying because it was true."

    12 Replies
    1. re: honkman

      It's tiresome hearing the excuse of San Diegans wanting only fish tacos and nobody "getting" a chef's style. If it didn't work out, chef, you move on, hopefully silently and with a little class. do your homework a little better next time and try to refrain from belittling an entire city's palate.

      1. re: mcgrath

        As a native SD, I was totally insulted by Chef Neroni's comment..
        Such total bullshit that I and other San Diegan's would go to Blanca and want fish tacos..

        1. re: Beach Chick

          Duh, no kidding, we want Patty Melts. (Jus kiddin) But seriously, well put BC, what a load of self righteous crap.

        2. re: mcgrath

          I think the truth is as always somewhere in the middle. Chefs in San Diego have to learn to adapt to what San Diegans want to eat to survive even if they want to cook something else. On the other side San Diego has a very high level of people who "don't get it" (not willing to try anything new) for its size. Here is another citation from Neroni which describes what I have also seen in SD before (and sous-vide cooking is just one example and it is sometimes for example disappointing to see how some guests react to more unusual food at the current Chef Celebration dinners and don't eat it):

          "“I like San Diego and, at Blanca, that was probably the best food I ever did,” Neroni said. “But I felt like only 20 percent got it.”
          The other 80 percent spurned his nose-to-tail pork dinners and complained about the chicken breast, which looked pale after being prepared sous vide, in vacuum-sealed plastic pouches. “It’s not uncooked,” Neroni retorted. “You’re just used to chicken that has grill marks on it, and has been overcooked.”

          1. re: mcgrath

            Wow, I'm surprised that someone hasn't posted this link already -

            Trey Foshee said 2 things in the article I thought were really true. First, that it will take SD native chefs to put SD on the food map because they understand what it's like to grow up here and what SD is about. And second, that local chefs haven't found a unified "voice" yet with which to define and explain the SD food scene.

            1. re: DiningDiva

              I agree with his second argument but disagree with the first one. I think it would be necessary to have somehow one big-name open a key restaurant in SD to move the culinary scene in SD forward. It's not that chefs in SD don't want or have the ability to do innovative cooking but the average SD customer (even in higher-end restaurant) is absolutely afraid to try anything remotely new. I went to a few of the Chef Celebration dinners over the last few weeks (and the food there is sometimes more unusual for SD) and I have never seen so many people don't eat their food, complaining to the waiter that this is unusual food, send their food back to ask for more familar stuff etc. Same at the Cook's Confab event and we see this on a regular basis only in SD (including Blanca). I only think this would change in SD if some big name (e.g. Keller, Trotter etc.) would open a restaurant where they would cook their style because most often people tend to try new things if they go to one of the celebrety chefs. Unfortunately I don't think that SD native chefs can afford to cook anything new / innovative / creative without risking their business.

              1. re: honkman

                Good observation; agree completely.

                1. re: honkman

                  Well, we're developing as a city. Twenty-five years ago no one ate fish tacos, for crying out loud. The pizza universally sucked (except when Mom cooked), the burgers were meh, and we all drank lousy beer. Well, I didn't drink lousy beer, but then again, I was nine.

                  Great restaurant scenes don't develop overnight, but we are improving. If San Diegans are willing to drink any variety of beer put in front of them (and we will), then who's to say we won't develop the same level of trust with chefs.

            2. re: honkman

              I think that it is a shame that Jason Neroni would say anything like that.
              Part of being running a business is to adapt to your clientele and cook things that they want to eat. I cannot argue that San Diego might not have the dining culture that some other cities have but there are a few millions people living in San Diego county and I am sure that enough people appreciate good food so that a good restaurant could survive without having to serve fish tacos. Nine Ten, George's, Market, Cavaillon to name a few. I have personally dined in Los Angeles a few times over the past few months and have been underwhelmed by my dinners there ( Mozza, gjelina, XIV to name a few ). Same applies to Las Vegas...
              Futhermore, I find it ironic that the San Diego Union Tribune would write an article a few weeks ago about Neroni being San Diego's savior... just to see the same Chef spitting in our face upon departure. That just shows, once again, how irrelevant our local press is when it comes to restaurants.
              I have no doubt that Neroni can cook...but for him to make such statements shows little class. I doubt that the great chefs in San Diego are secretly joking and mocking their clientele. I hope that he does well back East. I personally will not miss his cooking considering that he seems to think that he is too good for us San Dieguans...

              Cavaillon Restaurant
              14701 Via Bettona, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92127

              Nine Ten
              910 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037

              1. re: jaysurf12

                Completely agree jaysurf12, classless statements.

                1. re: jaysurf12

                  On a personal level, I feel sorry for his family. He was right when he commented about the cost of living in SoCal being as, if not more expensive then NY. But to your point about the other great SD chefs thoughts of him, I spoke with one of the best on Monday whose opinion of Mr. Neroni's attitude was less than stellar.

                2. re: honkman

                  "all San Diegans want is fish tacos"

                  I completely disagree.

                  San Diegans want quesadillas too. With extra guac.

                3. Interesting. Sad that SD is losing a legit chef. That restaurant was sort of an enigma and I think struggled with its location and price point. They were doing some interesting food but both of my epperiences there the food was VERY uneven in preparation (undercooked steak, sloppy presentation, etc) but some things were excellent. I don't think these things contributed but I would say the thinking that most people "didn't get it" probably has a lot of truth to it.

                  Good luck back in NYC.

                  1. I am starting to think it is the Chef's don't get it.

                    We don't just want fish tacos....big fan of carne asada burritos too.

                    7 Replies
                      1. re: MrKrispy

                        I thought about getting this product:


                        But I'veI have not cared for sous vide dishes. Arterra and Cavaillon come to mind.

                        Arterra Restaurant
                        11966 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130

                        Cavaillon Restaurant
                        14701 Via Bettona, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92127

                        1. re: 4wino

                          That model is about half price from the Restaurant grade Immersion Circulatiors, which one would think is a good deal. The real chink in the armor on that product though is the bath size. It looks tiny and this is before considering the quality of the circulator and how long it might last. It's worth spending the extra $400 if you are really into Sous Vide for the professional quality product.

                          1. re: 4wino

                            I have successfully prepared sous vide dishes at home with nothing more than plastic zipper bags, a pot of hot water, a stove, and a thermometer. I would suggest trying this method first before investing in a new gadget. I learned how to do this from an article from NYT or WSJ. If I find it, I will post it.

                            Regarding Cavaillon, I went there recently for the first time. Food was decent for the area, but the service was what killed it for us. I know San Diegans tend to dine earlier than us native East coasters, but the bus boy found it appropriate to clean tables all around us while we were still eating. His cleaning agent of choice. AMMONIA. The wait staff seemed to be lacking in communication amongst each other as well. We never know who was serving us!

                            Cavaillon Restaurant
                            14701 Via Bettona, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92127

                            1. re: JJS360

                              Just out of curiosity, JJS, what time and day was it that this happened at Cavaillon?

                              Cavaillon Restaurant
                              14701 Via Bettona, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92127

                              1. re: RB Hound

                                It was a Tuesday in March, and we had 8pm reservations. Three courses in total, and this was during a shared dessert, not after dinner drinks (for which we went elsewhere). I wanted to love it, and I still dream of the truffle risotto, but oof, that service jarring. It was something I would expect of a newer restaurant. Work out the kinks with service, exude a little sincerity and interest, and consider changing the floors, and I think it could be quite enjoyable.

                                1. re: JJS360

                                  Cavaillon had some service issues a few years back but over the last two years they were consistently good (for San Diego which is always more laid back than other cities). You should give them another try - their food is definitely one of the better options in SD. Cleaning tables with strong smelling ingredients during service happens unfortunately quite often in SD especiaally if you tend to eat late. We had the same problems at Cavaillon but also recently at Alchemy, Starlite, Urban Soalce.Nine-Ten.

                        2. Still scratching my head why anyone of worth is lamenting Neroni leaving town. The food was ok but to say this was the best food he cooked in his life is a marketing campaign for his next gig because surely if that's the best, it wasn't good enough. Bottom line, he couldn't hold staff
                          (don't believe me? Check craigslist help wanted and Solana beach high end restaurant posts) and the restaurant was never popping at capacity at anywhere near a regular basis = death sentence for any restaurant. His exit interview sounded more like a guy who failed and could point the finger at everything except the person directly responsible, himself. Pathetic, definite good riddance.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Lots of good comments here. But while I have your attention:

                            Anybody know where I can get a good fish taco?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Fake Name

                              I think Blanca is running a special.