At the latest installment of Taste of the Nation Laguna Beach on June 3, we met William Bradley, executive chef of Addison at The Grand Del Mar. During our discussion, the San Diego native hinted at how he’s found culinary success.
What’s the criteria for a dish you put on the menu at the Addison?
Obviously it starts with great produce, something that we’ve always focused on for many, many years. When we think about composing the dish, we think about the products and how to harmonize them to make something that’s special.
Was it a given that you would become a chef, or did you consider other careers?
It was a given. I started off at a very young age. It was something I was introduced to very young, so it’s really something I’ve always done.
What was your very first night like working in a professional restaurant kitchen, and where was that?
It was at a small Italian restaurant in San Diego that is no longer open, and it was exciting. It was something that you constantly chase, is the energy of a kitchen.
What was the restaurant called?
Was there anybody who helped you along the way in terms of being a mentor?
I had plenty of mentors. A lot of mentors are not always the chefs you work for, they’re the people that work next to you, or who are in different parts of the business. I’ve had a lot of mentors over time.
How did the Addison opportunity come about?
I was called and offered a job from the owner and the managing director of the property. They called me many years ago to take on the job and here I am.
How has the restaurant evolved in the five years that you’ve been open?
Slowly. Obviously we like to evolve very slow, so that it’s done at a pace where we feel that it’s unique, and it’s come a long way in five years, and we’ll continue to grow and stay positive on doing something special.
What is it that you think makes the restaurant or experience unique?
Our food has a lot of soul, so our cuisine is driven by the elements of taste and what we feel is special, so it doesn’t follow any trends or recipes of that sort. It’s very personal cuisine, so it has a sense of place.
What do you look for when you’re hiring somebody to work in your kitchen?
Do you have a top selling dish at the restaurant?
Obviously, seasons change. Our food is driven by the seasons, so it changes a lot. There’s not one dish that stays on the menu and is a top seller.
Do you consider signature dishes a positive?
Absolutely, but I think a signature dish – not all chefs are known for a signature dish – it takes time. Right now we haven’t found ours yet.
What’s the first dish you ever remember cooking, and how did it turn out?
I think the first dish I made a shrimp pasta, and it came out okay. It came out okay. I’d love to attempt to do it again.
What is your favorite part about working in restaurants?
I really enjoy giving to people. At the end of the day, you’re giving back your hard work to people who come into the restaurant. A restaurant is very family oriented. People come in, and they get together and they have a good time and celebrate. I love giving to people and making them happy.
What’s the most recent dish that you added to the menu, and what was your inspiration and approach?
We’re doing right now, it’s called a Spring Egg, and it’s basically a coddled Jidori egg and we serve it with different pickled vegetables and a sauce made of sorrel. It’s something that’s very light, crisp, very approachable and simple, but obviously complex with flavors. It’s a special dish. We’re really enjoying making it.
Are you able to maintain balance in your life?
Oh, absolutely. Sure.
How are you able to do that?
Balance in anything is obviously what you apply to it, so I have plenty of time to enjoy a lot of things. I have plenty of time.
Is there a person you’ve never cooked with before who you’d really like to cook with?
So far, I’ve been able to cook with all the chefs I admire.
What would you like to be known for as a chef?
A chef that understands taste.