Three weeks ago, the La Valencia hotel welcomed Timothy Ralphs as its new executive chef. The classically trained chef (known for fresh, flavorful dishes with a touch of whims) is launching his first menu this month. Debuting this week are his breakfast and lunch menus, with a dinner menu to follow in the upcoming weeks.
What is your culinary background?
“I was trained at Le Cordon Bleu, and worked in Europe and Asia. I worked up and down California, Arizona and Oregon. I helped open the Omni Hotel at Petco Park, and even worked at the Top of the Cove here before it closed. I have my advance sommelier certification. If it’s about food or wine, I’m in.”
What is your style and approach to cooking?
“It’s a cliché, but I’d have to say seasonal local cuisine. Alice Waters started many years ago to cook seasonally using what you have locally. Being here in Southern California with modern transportation and refrigeration, we can get anything. There is so much here, we don’t need to go far. There is tremendous Mexican and Asian influence, and European influence, when it comes to cooking styles. It’s a fun melting pot to be in. You could do anything here.
I worked in Denver for the last few years, and while it is becoming quite a great food scene, it’s still very meat-and-potatoes. It’s either Colorado lamb or beef. You don’t see a lot of fish, and you don’t see a lot of demand for fish. So to try to do as many innovative things there, as some chefs would like to do, is a little harder.”
What’s your vision for the food/beverage program at La V?
“I see it as one of innovation that captures ‘La Jolla.’ It needs to be casual and sophisticated to match this hotel. I don’t want us to be something we’re not. We have a lot of guests that demand high quality, and there are a lot more dietary concerns than ever before, but locals frequent our restaurant, too. We’re in a great location with an incredible view, but we are not white tablecloths and candles.
So, we’re going to change up the menus every few months. I see four or five changes a year. We want to keep engaging people with what we’re going to do next. We don’t want people to say ‘I went there six months ago, so I’ve been there, done that.’ ”
What do you see in the culinary future?
“Seasonal cuisine using local ingredients is here to stay. Trends are fun, but they are not food, they’re a show. That said, there are spices from the Middle East that may make their way onto more American plates.
I’ve been saying for years that Middle-Eastern food is the last frontier, in terms of flavors and spices. We’re seeing more of that than ever before. Indian food is becoming more popular, but that can be difficult, if you don’t have a grasp on Indian spices, and for some, the cuisine is still just too spicy.”
What do you do in your free time?
“What is that? (laughs) I spend most of my free time tasting and building on my palate, traveling to add to my experience, and spending time with my 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.
— La Valencia Hotel, 1132 Prospect St., includes The Med Mediterranean restaurant, the La Sala Lounge with Spanish-inspired appetizers; and Café La Rue and with European cuisine. lavalencia.com/dining
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