William Bradley’s Addison restaurant recently became the first in San Diego to win two Michelin stars. It was a culmination of over 15 years’ work for the chef/director and four-time James Beard Award nominee, who pivoted from classic French cuisine to a more rounded appreciation of Californian terroir, produce and gastronomy.
This celebration of the local area, its farmers and producers is particularly apposite in a time of supply chain challenges and product shortages, and the relationships Bradley has built over the years are allowing Addison to flourish through the pandemic. Fine Dining Lovers spoke to the chef about his Michelin-star journey, his cooking philosophy and the future.
What does this achievement of two Michelin stars mean to you and your team?
We're grateful to be in the company of our colleagues in San Diego and across the state of California who were honoured by Michelin this year. We're still processing the significance of the recognition but draw inspiration from it daily as we continue on our journey. Addison turned 15 in September, and we find opportunities to evolve every day to create the best possible experience for our guests.
Many of our colleagues have been at Addison for years - chef de cuisine Stefani De Palma for 13 years, director of service Sean McGinness for eight, sous chef Jonathan Brambila for nine. The honour is a testament to their and all our dedicated colleagues’ passion for this restaurant and what we do, what we strive for every day, every service. Everyone has played a part.
Photo credit: Philip Odegard
How does your current menu compare with the dishes you served 15 years ago, when Addison first opened?
15 years ago, our menus relied more on classic French cuisine, using staples like foie gras, Brittany turbot and other fish from Europe. Now we reflect more on sense of place and use local black cod, local kampachi from Baja. We’re trying to stay in our own backyard. And it’s more exciting for the traveling diner - you should be able to taste the local fare, and not just French food you’d find in Paris.
How do you hope this achievement will affect or elevate San Diego’s food community and greater Southern California gastronomy?
Michelin offers a global platform for restaurants within the regions where it awards stars. Michelin's impact is felt worldwide and it’s incredible for San Diego’s culinary scene to have that global audience with four restaurants representing the region with stars. That impact undoubtedly affects the entire ecosystem including the local artisans, producers and farmers who are a critical part of our and any restaurant's success. We are first and foremost inspired by the product, the raw ingredients that make up the terroir of a region and inform our approach at Addison. California Gastronomy wouldn't exist without the farmers and producers around us.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu right now?
Our chicken liver churro. It's part of our ‘Prelude’ of first bites and was conceptualised as a nod to our San Diego culinary scene that we hope brings a sense of comfort and joy to our guests.
Can you sum up your culinary perspective or philosophy?
Start with the ingredients.
Photo credit: Philip Odegard
How did you and your team cope during the pandemic?
We are incredibly fortunate to have a terrace and outdoor space at Addison that allowed us to safely serve our guests during the periods when indoor dining was not a possibility. The second shutdown in California presented more challenges as we briefly transitioned to offer to-go for the first time in our history. While the pandemic is still very real and its impact will be long felt within our industry, we are grateful to be where we are today.
How have you and your restaurant been affected by ingredient or product shortages during the pandemic?
Supply chain challenges and product shortages continue to impact all in the industry. It underscores the importance of sourcing locally whenever possible, supporting producers and farmers in the region because we all coexist together.
Given the stability that sourcing locally can offer, did you find that doing so during the pandemic benefited Addison?
Yes, and once you have those relationships [with farmers, vendors] in place, you get a better product. And it goes back to responsibility. We have a responsibility to honour our relationships with our farmers.
Photo credit: Dylan + Jeni
Tell me about one of those ingredients that are emblematic of these relationships.
Our broccoli right now from Sage Hill. I love taking a humble ingredient and elevating it. The broccoli and the broccoli flowers give us such depth of flavour. We also use the stems in chawanmushi with uni.How have you and your restaurant been affected by labor shortages during the pandemic?
It's a challenge that restaurants will continue to face, but we are hopeful for the future. I'm encouraged every day by my colleagues at Addison who so passionately contribute their talents to our shared mission.
Has the pandemic forced you to make any significant operating changes?
Our hours shifted during the pandemic due to a curfew in place in San Diego and the experience was revelatory in terms of the space it created for our colleagues to complete service hours earlier. While the curfew is no longer in place, we have continued to consider the cadence of our service to create more balance.
Photo credit: Addison
How do you foresee your immediate food community changing in the next two years as a result of the pandemic, and the many upheavals and reckonings of these last 18 months?
It’s impossible to predict the long-term repercussions that Covid will have on our industry, but it’s also clear that it will never be the same - whether a restaurant is serving tasting menus or burgers. We’re all learning how to walk again in this new climate, but ultimately, we’re still driven by the same sense of purpose that has always guided us: how can we continue to serve our guests?
We all would have answered that question differently in February 2020, but there’s also a sense of comfort in knowing that even though the rules have changed, the question is still the same. It feels even more imperative to be led by that purpose of service - to help our guests feel safe, cared for and transported during one of the most if not the most traumatic periods any of us have been through.