San Diego native leaves Daniel Boulud’s NYC empire to open a place in his hometown


Chef Travis Swikard, a San Diego native who has spent the last 10 years in New York working with superstar French chef Daniel Boulud, is coming back home to open his first restaurant.

In an interview Tuesday, Swikard, 34, said he’s drawn by the region’s bountiful fresh produce and seafood as well as the strong culinary influence of Baja. But the married father of two young sons said he was equally drawn back to his hometown to raise his kids here and be near his family.

“First and foremost, I’m a family man,” the West Hills High School grad said. “My oldest is 4 years old, and next year he’ll be going into kindergarten. It’s time and place; I didn’t think New York City was right for me and my family right now.”

After seeing about 60 possible locations in San Diego County to open a restaurant that will serve Cali-Med cuisine, Swikard said, “I just haven’t found the right one yet.”

It’s expected to open sometime in 2019.

Swikard, who was culinary director of Boulud’s restaurant empire The Dinex Group and had opened the coastal Mediterranean-inspired Boulud Sud, called the French chef a warm and generous mentor.

“The guy eats sleeps and breathes hospitality. He’s an incredible chef, but he was born for this business. He walks into a room and he has incredible presence,” Swikard said.

“I’ll really miss working with Daniel, but I really hope to bring a piece of him to San Diego.”

Chef Gavin Kaysen, who met Swikard when the latter was a teenager, gave him an internship at El Bizcocho in Rancho Bernardo. Keysen would later also bring Swikard into the Boulud restaurant fold, hiring him as a cook at Café Boulud in New York.

Kaysen was also somewhat responsible for Swikard meeting his wife, Mia.

“Travis had been in London working for a guy I had introduced him to, and when he came back, he called me up and asked what he should do, where he should go,” said Kaysen, who offered him an internship at Café Boulud.

“His first day, he showed up two to three hours late, he took the wrong train. But the rest of the day went fine and that night he went out (to a bar) with the rest of the chefs. ... The next day, he said to me, ‘I think I met my wife.’ ” And he had.

Kaysen, who left New York to return to his hometown of Minneapolis to open his own first restaurant, said Swikard’s transition back to San Diego is exciting, but it may also be a challenge.

“He hasn’t been there in a long time and it won’t be easy,” Kaysen said. “I know what that feels like, and I will be with him every step of the way supporting him. ... I’m really proud of him.”

“He did an amazing job in New York, and he created a beautiful restaurant with chef” Boulud, Keysen added. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to come visit San Diego when (Swikard’s restaurant) is up and running.”

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