Restaurateur of the Year: Sami Ladeki of La Jolla

La Jollan Sami Ladeki, owner of Ladeki Restaurant Group, was born in Lebanon and has opened more than 35 restaurants and fine-dining concepts around the world since 1983. This summer, he celebrates 25 years of combining globally- inspired cuisine with locally-produced ingredients at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, with a variety of social media promotions at his 19 locations in Southern California and Nevada.

Ladeki, who opened the first Sammy’s in La Jolla in 1989, was honored June 3 with the “Restaurateur of the Year” award by the California Restaurant Association at its 30th annual Gold Medallion Awards. Mayor Kevin Faulconer declared June 3 to be “Sami Ladeki Day,” in honor of his milestone achievements.

Recognized for both his business and philanthropic dexterity, in 2012 Ladeki was presented with the Headliner Award by the San Diego Press Club.

What brought you to La Jolla?

I was visiting La Jolla and I just fell in love with it. The energy, beauty and the elegance of the people here — I knew it would become my home.

What might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

La Jolla should be more known as a dining and shopping destination. I would snap my fingers and make La Jolla a more pedestrian and outdoor-friendly dining town. La Jolla is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I think it should be celebrated and enjoyed with more sidewalk cafes, and it should be a place to come and enjoy live music and entertainment.

Who or what inspires you?

I get inspired when I walk into one of my restaurants and I see it full of laughing, happy people, enjoying the food and having a great time. It is moments like

that where I find the drive and passion to continually innovate and take my restaurants to the next level.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I have six: Leonardo da Vinci, Khalil Gibran, John F. Kennedy, Chef Alain Ducasse, Howard D. Schultz (founder of Starbucks) and Steve Jobs.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a book called “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” by Ari Shavit.

What do you do for fun?

I love listening to live music, all types, but I especially enjoy European music. I love to travel, dine out and try new restaurants. I don’t have a lot of free time, so when I do, I spend it with my good friends celebrating life!

What is it that you most dislike?

I dislike people who are not respectful of your time, and people who are sloppy. I’ve always believed it is important to dress for the occasion.

What is your most-prized possession?

My home in La Jolla, and, of course, my friends and family and my company.

What is your philosophy of life?

Live, and let live, and always remember to give and take and find a common ground.

What would be your dream vacation?

The South of France and Provence, and a little island called St. Barths in the Caribbean