Chefs and foodies come together to ‘Celebrate the Craft’


By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt


October 31: This year, it’s not just Halloween. It’s also the date of one of SoCal’s finest food and wine happenings, the eighth annual “Celebrate the Craft” event at The Lodge at Torrey Pines.

Featuring the freshest ingredients and some of the top chefs, farmers and vintners in the area, CTC gives local foodies a chance to meet the folks who create what we eat.

The event is the brainchild of Jeff Jackson, executive chef at the Lodge’s signature restaurant, A.R. Valentien. Jackson, an award-winning chef who was trained in the classic French manner, began developing his own style of market-driven seasonal cooking even before he joined the Lodge in 2002.

“I wanted a way to connect chefs and the public with the sources of their food,” he said. “Basically, it’s a family reunion of local chefs and many of the guests are people who come every year. It’s like Christmas for me!”

Jackson is a longtime member of the Slow Food movement that first started in Italy 24 years ago as a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome, and now claims over 100,000 members in 132 countries. Slow Food promotes traditional, regional cuisine and sustainable growing methods, and some of the proceeds from Celebrate the Craft always go to Slow Food’s San Diego branch.

As much as possible, local purveyors supply the ingredients for the event, though the meats come from places like Northern California’s Niman Ranch, which has been raising animals in humane ways for over 30 years. But the chicken is local, from a new spot in Alpine called Happy Tummy Farm.

This year, all the chefs will be cooking from their roots.

“I’m from Oklahoma,” Jackson said. “So I’m making home-made pickles and fried rabbit. I like getting people to try something out of the ordinary.”

Another award-winning chef who is part of the CTC circle is Jason Knibb, executive chef of Nine-Ten in La Jolla.

Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and raised in Southern California, Knibb has an eclectic culinary background, including notable eateries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Maui, Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort in Utah, and a restaurant named Malibu in Warsaw, Poland.

CTC is one of his favorite events.

“It’s a great get-together for chefs who share the same philosophy of farm-to-table food,” he said. “And Jeff really makes it easy for us all. Everything’s themed, looking beautiful, and ready to go. We just show up, put our food down, and have fun.”

He’ll be having fun with a Jamaican-style curry, made with lamb instead of the traditional goat.

“Lamb tastes pretty much the same, but it’s easier to find here,” he said.

Monica Szepesy, chef/owner of Q’ero, a popular Peruvian restaurant in Encinitas, will also be part of the event.

Born in Bolivia, raised in Chile, Jamaica, Pakistan, and Honduras, Szepesy is a melting pot of culinary influences. She believes that traditional cooking helps foster a sense of community, and tries to convey a feeling of warmth and pride in the food she prepares.

Recently returned from a trip to Peru, Szepesy will be preparing a rustic pork dish with ground peanuts, beets and potatoes that she just tried for the first time in the highlands outside Cuzco. “It’s truly unique and delicious, and a beautiful color, too!” she said.

Bon Appetit! Buen Provecho! Let’s eat!

If you go


“Celebrate the Craft,” tastings from 17 top chefs and 27 food, beer and wine producers


11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31


Picnic on the Arroyo Terrace of the Lodge at Torrey Pines.




(858) 777-6635.