Apple’s iPhone and Martha Stewart put a spotlight on San Diego

Apple used the $85 million Rady Shell at Jacobs Park it to introduce the iPhone 13 Tuesday.
The San Diego Symphony debuted its $85 million Rady Shell at Jacobs Park on Aug. 6. Apple used it to introduce its iPhone 13 via video on Sept. 14.
(Courtesy San Diego Sympony)

The Rady Shell stars in Apple product launch, and Martha Stewart tries some local restaurants


The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park had its international debut this week. It took center stage during the Sept. 14 unveiling of Apple’s new product line.

CEO Tim Cook was at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, but the venue shifted as different members of his team introduced new and improved high-tech products.

Apple aficionados got their first glimpse of the iPhone 13 on the Una Davis Family Stage of the huge conch-shaped Rady Shell on a sliver of park behind the San Diego Convention Center and yacht marina.

Dramatic drone footage zoomed viewers from the Coronado Bridge into the San Diego Symphony’s outdoor venue. The stage was empty except for a giant suspended video screen and Kaiann Drance, Apple VP of iPhone product marketing. In a pre-recorded presentation, she emceed a series of iPhone announcements and videos — shot on the new smartphone, course.

The iPhone 13 comes in new colors and features longer battery life, brighter images and cinematic camera mode. It also offers 5G powered by its own A15 processer enabled by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X60 modem — making The Rady Shell’s location in a park named for Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs a double tribute to San Diego.

San Diego Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer, sworn to secrecy before Tuesday’s Apple product launch, immediately afterward dispatched an email blast to colleagues and friends.

“The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park made her grand entrance at 39 minutes 30 seconds into the presentation,” she announced.

The products were launched to Apple’s “California Streaming” campaign that highlighted a number of scenic settings and landmarks around the state, along with the 17-minute iPhone segment that included The Rady Shell.

In addition to the super secrecy and ultra-tight security surrounding the production, Gilmer noted that it occurred during the opening weeks of the concert venue when the Shell’s facility and production crews were stretched thin but anxious to expand the exposure of San Diego.

“We always dreamed The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park would be an icon for the region and a beacon on the front porch of San Diego,” Gilmer emailed.

The eye-catching structure hasn’t yet reached Sydney Opera House visibility, but coupled with a feature broadcast on Sept. 3 on PBS News Hour and its recent appearance in The New York Times and other national media exposure, The Rady Shell is well on its way to becoming an iconic symbol of San Diego.

Cooking celeb Martha Stewart dined at Animae, where she was joined by co-owner/operater Brian Malarkey and chef Tara Monrod.
Cooking celebrity Martha Stewart dined at Animae, where she was joined by co-owner/operater Brian Malarkey and Executive Chef Tara Monrod, right.
(Courtesy of Brian Malarkey)

On the same day, next door at the San Diego Convention Center, home entertainment entrepreneur Martha Stewart was a keynote speaker at the three-day Traffic and Conversion Summit (a digital marketing confab).

While in town, the celebrated cook sampled the fare at two local restaurants and put her social networking skills on display.

On her Instagram page, she posted a photo with San Diego executive chef Claudette Zepeda at VAGA in the new Hyatt Alila Marea resort in Encinitas. Stewart ate lunch there on Tuesday.

She described Zepeda’s bluff-top restaurant as a wonderful new space in the resort overlooking the Pacific. “The food is really unique. Look up the menu,” touted Stewart. She noted that her favorite entree was the sea bass with cabbage and white jasmine coconut rice. For dessert? Meringue with passion fruit and summer melons.

Zepeda is known for her authentic Mexican cooking. She competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and on “Top Chef Mexico” and, in 2019, was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: West while at the now-defunct El Jardin restaurant in Liberty Station.

Upon Zepeda’s recommendation, Stewart dined at Animae, a gourmet restaurant in an upscale condo building in downtown San Diego.

Animae co-owner/operator Brian Malarkey, also a celebrity chef, learned of the visit when he called his executive chef, Tara Monsod, to ask if anything was going on Tuesday evening. She replied, “Martha Stewart just walked in the door.”

“The last time I got this excited was when I met Kevin Costner,” said Malarkey, who hurried to Animae to greet Stewart, seated casually at the bar. He posted a photo on his Facebook page with Stewart and Animae’s Executive Chef Tara Monsod, whose specialty is Filipino cuisine.

The dining diva raved online about the “amazing food and drinks” at Animae, singling out the caipirinhas (she ordered two). No need to consult Google. Caipirinhas are the national cocktail of Brazil, made with cachaça liquor, sugar and lime.

She dined on yellowtail with kimchi vinaigrette, a chive steamed bun with soy glaze and Som Tam salad, an amalgam of green papaya, corn, watermelon, chili and peanuts. It was the best meal she’d eaten in two years, she told Malarkey, calling Tara “a treasure.”

At the summit, Stewart, interviewed by Roland Frasier, had advised the audience: “Lots of good things happen when helping others build their businesses.” She certainly followed that philosophy in San Diego.