Mex-Med maestro chef Javier Plascencia will appear on Thursday as a guest mentor on ABC’s “The Taste,” in an episode aptly titled “Latin.” Appearing with some of the biggest names in the food world - Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre and Marcus Samuelsson - Plascencia will gain national exposure at a time when his career locally is red hot. Here are 10 things you need to know about him.
1) In March, he’ll open Bracero: Cocina de Raiz in Little Italy, his most ambitious project to date and one of the highly anticipated new restaurants in San Diego of 2015.
3) Plascencia was credited with helping repair Tijuana’s tattered reputation when, in January 2011 he opened Misión 19, a sleek, critically acclaimed fine-dining restaurant in that city’s Zona Rio.
4) Two months later, he was featured in The New York Times in an article entitled, “Master of a New Tijuana.” Then in January 2012, The New Yorker published an extensive profile of Plascencia, calling him the “figurehead of Baja cuisine.”
5) During the height of Tijuana’s crime and kidnapping wave, the Plascencias moved to San Diego; Javier would monitor the restaurants south of the border by webcam, traveled with a bodyguard and would slip into TJ on his motorcycle.
6) His friends nicknamed him “El Negro” due to his penchant for dressing in black and his dark looks. Others have dubbed him “The Mexican George Clooney.”
7) He grew up on both sides of the border and is athletic; he learned how to surf while he was attending the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad and at one point was a single digit handicap golfer.
8) Over the summer, the first of the controversial “Death for Food” events, where people pay to slaughter their own dinner, was held at Finca Altozano, Plascenica’s wine country restaurant in Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe.
9) He says the concept of Bracero pays homage to farm workers, particularly those in the Bracero program of the 1940s and also wants the name Cocina de Raiz, or roots of cuisine, to link back to Mexico’s culinary heritage.
10) Plascencia admits to “feeling very excited but a bit nervous because of the size of the project” - nearly 5,000 square feet in the heart of San Diego’s hottest dining area - and the sizeable investment going into Bracero. He says he had the opportunity to open a similar project in Mexico City or L.A. but decided on San Diego - “my hood!” - to be close to his family, the ocean and his Baja restaurants.