Dinner series aims for the (rising) stars


The Rising Star Dinner Series at Bivouac Ciderworks pairs a set of emerging stars on the culinary scene with renowned local chefs. The brainchild of executive chef DJ Tangalin, the series joins the energetic verve of younger cooks with the established, experienced and respected chef mentors from around San Diego County.

Ahead of the second iteration of the series, PACIFIC sat down with Chef Tangalin (who was the lead chef kicking off PACIFIC’s 2017 Chain of Gourmand) to find out more about Rising Stars, his own journey through mentorship, and who guests can expect to see during the dinner series.

PACIFIC: How did the Rising Star Dinner Series came about? What’s the main goal?

TANGALIN: The goal is to strengthen the food community of San Diego. Everyone says San Diego isn’t a food town. The response is to be a better food town. I also know the importance of having a mentor and I’m trying to do that for the younger cooks.

You have an impressive background! How did famous chefs like Eric Ripert, Daniel Patterson, and Douglas Keane influence your cooking?

In a lot of ways! I learned a lot of technique and leadership, and got to observe how a three-Michelin star restaurant runs. I learned their philosophy for cooking, and I took it all in and maximized my time.

Who are you bringing in for mentors?

It started out as a Facebook post. I wanted to help out young cooks and to connect them with chefs. I immediately got responses from 20 to 30 cooks, executive chefs and owners. Putting the talent together was the easiest part, the scheduling is the hardest. Some of the chefs include: Lety McKenzie from BeerFish (who was the mentor during the first Rising Star dinner in May); James Montejano from Seaside Market; Accursio Lota from Solare; Davin Waite From Wrench & Rodent; Jack Monaco, a San Diego OG who has been cooking for over 30 years; Aaron Obregon, from Rising Tide at Coronado Marriott; Steven Lona from Waterbar; Evan Cruz from Arterra; and there are more to come!

How are rising stars are identified?

They don’t have to apply. I’m putting up the lineup as first come first serve, and I match them up. For instance, there are two rising stars matched with a mentor. For the upcoming dinner, I paired Justin Cullimore from Seaside Market and Tyson Rodda from Whet Noodle with James (Montejano), because he is a chef in San Diego with a long history of great mentorship. Justin is his 11th sous chef going on to become an executive chef.

How do the pairings work? Are dishes matched to existing ciders or are the dishes planned and ciders matched later?

We focus primarily on the food. We have six ciders on draft (at Bivouac) and guest taps, and we also carry beer, wine, cocktails. So it won’t be just ciders. On the first dinner we used three ciders and cider cocktails. We plan the menu and then we work with the beverage team.

What should diners expect from these dinners? What sets them apart?

For one, this is not a typical pairing dinner where the chef makes a dish based on a beverage. This is food driven. The chefs are the sparks. It’s also definitely a dinner that showcases upcoming talent that guests may have never heard before. They are the future of San Diego dining.

Favorite pairing you’ve done so far?

The dessert from the first dinner. It was a Beet Financier, but it was like an ice cream cocktail. It involved a frozen Brandy Alexander with cream, brandy and white chocolate. My signature thing though, is a take home pastry. I love for people to wake up the next morning after a dinner and still talk about it the following day.

Bivouac has a decidedly outdoor name and theme. Are you an outdoorsy guy?

I try to be!

Favorite outdoor activity?

I run to be healthy. My sister gave me a FitBit and I try to get my 10 thousand steps before I work.

What has been the local response to the dinners?

It has been getting a great response, and I hope it continues. I can’t wait for dinner 10 or 20 or 50! It feels really good that people are behind it. It helps young cooks to have confidence with chefs they look up to and may not have a chance to work with; and for experienced chefs to look back and remember where they came from. We want to rise everybody up.

Rising Stars Dinner Series IV

When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Oct. 29

Where: Bivouac Ciderworks, 3986 30th St. North Park

Tickets: $65 for six courses and can be purchased here