New chefs bringing fresh flavors to North County restaurants

A quick take on what’s new at Masters, Union Kitchen, Campfire, Valentina and California Native


New restaurants generate the biggest buzz with today’s short-attention-span diners. New chefs at existing restaurants rarely do. But five coastal North County restaurants are using the installation of new executive chefs in recent months to rethink their culinary mission.

Here’s a lookof some of the new chefs in town and how they’re reimagining the food at restaurants in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas and Del Mar.

Mario E. Manship — Masters Kitchen and Cocktail, Oceanside

Backstory: A third-generation professionally trained chef, Manship cooked in kitchens in Chicago before returning to his native North County in 2015 to work at Urge Gastropub. He joined the Masters culinary team last year and was elevated to executive chef a couple of months ago.
Culinary style: He calls it “rustic casual, relatable but far from ordinary, with an emphasis on seafood.” Future goal is to incorporate some of his favorite Asian and Mexican flavors into the new menu, which will be unveiled Nov. 1.
Signature dish: Fried honey pecan shrimp on a bed of forbidden black fried rice with local seasonal vegetables and fried pork belly bites.
Location: 208 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside. (760) 321-6278.

Michael Welch — Union Kitchen & Tap Encinitas

Backstory: Born in New York and raised in Chicago, Welch started his culinary career bussing tables before attending Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. He worked in corporate cuisine before joining OMG Hospitality Group as executive chef at Backyard Kitchen & Tap in Pacific Beach last year. After helping develop the menu for OMG’s new Union Food Truck, he transferred to OMG’s Union Kitchen in Encinitas in August.
Culinary style: Fresh coastal vibe with lighter, produce- and seafood-forward dishes that complement some of the restaurant’s classic meat-centric dishes.
Signature dishes: On the fall menu rolling out in early November, Welch will introduce a spiced butternut and baby kale salad with roasted pepitas, quinoa, pomegranate seeds and goat cheese.
Location: 1108 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas. (760) 230-2337.

Andrew Santana — Campfire, Carlsbad

Backstory: After 18 months away cooking at the Pearl Hotel in San Diego, Santana returned to Campfire in September as co-executive chef with Andrew Bachelier, the restaurant’s founding chef and partner. Campfire earned a Bib Gourmand rating from the Michelin Foundation earlier this year, and Santana’s goal is to further enhance the restaurant’s reputation as a dining destination. He will roll out a menu with 10 new dishes in early November.
Culinary style: At Campfire he is exploring new techniques in open-fire cooking by smoking delicate items like scallops and sweet breads. He is broadening the menu with cuts of meat available through whole-animal butchery, like lamb head and beef tendons. And he’s using ingredients that represent a more global influence.
Signature dish: Lengua (beef tongue) pastrami with charred cabbage, roasted Brussels sprouts, sauerkraut, pickled mustard seed and rye. It will be available on the fall menu in early November.
Location: 2725 State St., Carlsbad. (760) 637-5121.

Christopher Carriker — California Native, Del Mar

Backstory: A native of Washington state, he earned his culinary degree in Portland, Ore., where he worked as a chef for many years. In San Diego, he cooked at Avant in Rancho Bernardo and was on the culinary launch team for International Smoke at One Paseo in Carmel Valley. He also briefly served as executive chef at L’Auberge Del Mar until it closed its Kitchen 1540 restaurant two months ago for a redesign. Over the past couple of months, Carriker has completely revamped the menu at this year-old California cuisine restaurant to feature a bigger number and broader array of dishes at different price points as well as weekly specials to highlight local seafood and produce.
Culinary style: His flair for French-influenced Northwest cuisine earned him an invite to cook at the James Beard House in New York in 2011.
Signature dish: The Del Mar Bowl features zucchini noodles mixed with cucumbers, arugula, peas and avocado, topped with goat cheese, avocado crema and hemp seeds. Optional proteins include tuna poke, wood-grilled shrimp, rotisserie chicken and beef tri-tip.
Location: Del Mar Highlands Town Center, Suite G-2, 12955 El Camino Real, Carmel Valley. (858) 369-0569.

Lisa Ortiz - Valentina, Leucadia

Backstory: This week, Ortiz took over as executive chef at Valentina, a dinnerhouse that opened several months ago in the former Moto Deli location in Leucadia. Hernandez joins Valentina from Clara in Carlsbad. Before that, she spent two years as a sous chef at Paradise Point resort in San Diego. She also served as a line cook at several San Diego restaurants, including Ironside, Baleen, Craft and Commerce, and PrepKitchen.
Culinary style: “I would consider my style approachable. I like to take uncommon ingredients and utilize them in a familiar way while paying homage to my roots.”
Signature dish: “I am doing a braised lamb with mole rojo, risotto and pickled persimmon. I’ve been working on this mole base for over a year. This dish is a direct reflection of my style. Risotto and lamb are a familiar combination to introduce the complex flavors of mole.”
Location: 810 N. Coast Highway 101, Leucadia. (760) 943-6686.