Twenty/20 Executive Chef Julian Quinones joined the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort in April and his menu is a perfect reason to check out this fabulous resort in Carlsbad. After a fabulous meal on their outdoor patio, I had a conversation with the San Diego native about growing up here and other influences on his style.
You grew up in San Diego and come from a family of chefs. What part of town did you grow up in and tell me about being raised in a culinary family.
I grew up in Paradise Hills and at age 14 moved to Deer Park in eastern Washington state. My dad was the chef of the family and parents owned a few restaurants and it was great growing up in that environment. We always had great meals. Mom and dad both prepared meals with fresh ingredients. Even at both restaurants all sauces were prepared fresh, as well as fresh tortillas prepared to order. I have an appreciation for what they did and learned what good work ethic and dedication was at a young age.
What type of cuisine was being made at your house growing up? Any memories of specific dishes that stand out?
At home dad loved to prepare fresh fish or seafood. My favorite dishes from mom were her enchiladas and chile rellenos. I have a hard time duplicating the sauces but get lucky once in a while.
I see that fishing was part of your experience growing up in San Diego. Tell me about that and have you been reaping the bounty of this fabulous summer of fishing off San Diego?
My grandpa loved to fish and fishing always brings back great memories. We would fish the pier quite a bit on Shelter Island and near Seaport Village. It has been a great summer of fishing. I have not been out this summer as much as I would like, however my goal is to get out there as much as possible this month.
Tell me about your culinary road to Twenty/20 and some of the stops that most influenced your style.
My first experience in the kitchen was at La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla. I was 14 years old and my dad, who was the exec chef at the time, had me start in the pantry. The menu was classic French Mediterranean inspired and I would work there every summer through high school. Those are some great memories!
My parents opened a Mexican restaurant La Leyenda in Spokane, Washington, when I was 18 and my first job was washing dishes before I moved on to busboy and then server before eventually making my way back into the kitchen where I loved to be.
At age 22 I returned to San Diego to work at French Market Grille in Rancho Bernardo with Chef Herve Glin and owner Patrick Halcewicks, former executive chef and GM of La Valencia Hotel as a sous chef and took over as chef de cuisine when Herve moved to Palm Springs.
My goal was to become and executive chef and I really wanted to learn banquets and I took the banquet chef position at La Costa Resort and soon moved up to executive sous chef. In 2010 I started at The Hotel Del Coronado as executive sous chef and started at Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Twenty/20 as executive chef in April 2015.
The meal I had at Twenty/20 was fabulous and I think locals should know more about this place in the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa. Describe the menu and your style to folks who may not know about this gem.
The menu is California coastal and the focus is on using the best available ingredients that are in season. I like to keep the ingredients clean and straightforward. If it’s a grilled piece of protein that is exactly what you get, a nice perfectly grilled steak or fish not steamed or sous vide first then grilled.
Not that I think there is anything wrong with those techniques, but that is just not my style. I prefer the natural flavor from the grill. We have a beautiful view and our staff is amazing. It’s an inviting atmosphere any time of day.
Are there standouts on the menu that you would recommend?
I would definitely recommend our Green Curry Mussels/ Coconut curry broth and CAB New York Steak, a 12-ounce center cut New York char grilled and served with Black Garlic Compound butter and crisp truffle fries. The Pan Roasted Gold Spotted Bass with Lemon Quinoa and Romesco and for dessert the Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding can’t be beat. We have a very talented pastry chef, Jean Marie Veerhoven, who prepares all of the desserts in house.
The cocktail program and dessert were also fabulous. Tell me more about what goes into those efforts.
Our cocktail program is amazing. Steve George, our beverage manager, has done a great job of putting together a great selection of craft beers, cocktails and wines that pair well with our menu. We have a unique and vast selection of bourbon, whiskey and tequilas as well.
Twenty/20 is at 5480 Grand Pacific Dr. in Carlsbad. For more information, call (760) 827-2500 or visit twenty20grill.com.
David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 395-6905.