Claudette Zepeda returns to Liberty Station as chef of domed pop-up
The upscale, igloo-like Dinner With a View marks the most high-profile local event Zepeda has done since leaving El Jardín
Chef Claudette Zepeda is returning to Liberty Station.
In her most high-profile San Diego appearance since the implosion of her celebrated restaurant El Jardín, Zepeda was announced Monday as the chef of an upscale pop-up concept that will feature dining in plant-lined domed terrariums.
Liberty Station’s Central Promenade will be the first U.S. location for Dinner with a View, a Canadian-bred, Instagram-ripe event that will run between Feb. 6 and March 8. Currently being held in Vancouver, Dinner with a View heads east to Chicago after San Diego.
Previous Dinner with a View pop-ups in Canada have tapped cheftestants from “Top Chef Canada” to cook, and following suit, San Diego has chosen Zepeda, who was on both “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Mexico.”
Zepeda was one of the most talked about chefs in San Diego in 2019, earning the region’s only James Beard Award nomination, a Bib Gourmand designation in the inaugural Michelin Guide California and widespread critical acclaim for her brand of upscale, regional Mexican cooking at El Jardín.
But just thirteen months after it opened to great fanfare, the restaurant was suddenly shut down in July, with the owner citing sagging sales and a desire expressed by Point Loma locals for a less expensive eatery that had more of a “margarita focus.”
The restaurant reopened in August as the more casual El Jardín Cantina.
Since the closing, Zepeda sightings in San Diego have been rare. Reached by phone Monday from Powder Mountain, Utah — where she’s cooking at the exclusive Summit Mountain Series — Zepeda said she has been on a culinary journey that has taken her from Oaxaca to London, Paris and beyond.
The significance of her first noteworthy chef appearance in San Diego being at Liberty Station wasn’t lost on her.
“It’s a little ironic,” Zepeda said, “but it’s going to be cathartic. It’s going to be coming back and closing up a chapter that closed a little bit more abruptly than I would have liked. But it’ll be good, I’m thrilled to be doing it.”
She said dome diners shouldn’t have any preconceived notions about what she’ll be serving.
“Mexican food is global cuisine — it’s a mash-up of cultures that have washed up on our shores for hundreds of years. I no longer want to cook food that has an ethnic approach because it’s not relevant any more,” Zepeda said. “I just want to cook food that’s delicious and looks beautiful. I don’t want to fit into one genre.”
Dinner with a View’s 33 individually reserved igloo-like domes will accommodate up to six people; a minimum of four people are required to book a dome for $199.99 for one of three nightly seatings (5:30, 7:30 or 9:30 p.m.). The per-person three-course dinner tab is $109.99, with optional drink pairings. Tickets have been on sale for the San Diego pop-up since Dec. 6. On Monday, the Dinner with a View website said the series is 70 percent sold out.
Zepeda isn’t sure what she’ll do after the event ends.
“The world is my oyster,” she said. “I don’t have anything concrete. I’m still doing my wanderlust.”
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