A San Diego Native himself, Serea’s Executive Chef Jojo Ruiz draws on his own experiences to create innovative beach-inspired dishes with local ingredients at Serẽa. We caught up with Jojo to discuss his innovative and sustainable cooking practices and what Shore House owners can expect from the new, reimagined dining experiences at The Del.
What is your background in the culinary arts and what inspired you to become a chef?
I actually didn’t want to be a chef, I wanted to build motorcycles and cars. But when I was fifteen years old, my dad’s friend got me my first job as a dishwasher and I worked my way up to working on the sushi bar by the time I was 17. Graduated early and decided to go to culinary school at San Diego Culinary Institute. After I graduated, I took an internship with Brian Malarkey at Oceanaire and he hired me a week into my internship.
How would you describe your personal cooking style/philosophy?
My personal style of cooking is seasonal, sustainable and relatable.
What drew you to work with the Hotel del Coronado specifically?
Honestly, I manifested working in that hotel from the time I barely started cooking. The Del has always been iconic when it comes to seafood offerings so I manifested it and it ended up happening.
As a San Diego native, how do local ingredients and the surrounding beach culture inspire your cooking?
It inspires everything. I spent a lot of time in Rosarito with my grandparents. Being by the ocean and being by the water is something that has always resonated with me.
You were recently recognized as a 2019 James Beard Foundation Smart Catch Leader for your work with sustainable seafood and prime meats. Beyond using local and seasonal ingredients, can you tell us a bit about your commitment to ocean-friendly initiatives and sustainable practices in your cooking?
We try to respect all of our products as much as we can by using every part of what we receive. We try using local produce which helps with the carbon footprint and truly asking where all of our seafood is coming from. We have great partnerships with local purveyors and they help guide us in the right direction.
As the Executive Chef of Serẽa at Hotel del Coronado, what can you tell us about the restaurant’s sea-to-table dining experience?
The design of the restaurant was based on being fresh and truly feeling sea to table by using the products we have. The raw bar has a story to tell by showcasing all of our products.
What’s your favorite item to prepare from the menu at Serẽa?
My favorite item to prepare is the Baja Kampachi Sashimi.
How has The Del’s recent re-imagination evolved the overall experience at Serẽa?
It’s lighter and more family-friendly. I’m also looking forward to specially curated dining experiences for Shore House owners, some of whom I’ve already met and looking forward to meeting the rest of them and their families.
Can you share some insight on The Del’s Chef’s Garden, specifically what’s grown there and how it’s incorporated into the menu?
Strawberries, Strawberry Guavas, Shallots, Leeks, Rosemary, Thyme.
We’ve heard that when you’re not in the kitchen you spend your free time restoring Harley-Davidsons and custom motorcycles. How did this hobby come to be?
I grew up around cars and motorcycles. I actually sold my Harley and now have a 1966 Impala Convertible Lowrider. I have many hobbies but mainly cars, motorcycles and yoga.