The city's leaders in health, science, politics, food, and culture share their game-changing ideas for San Diego in 2016.

Let’s define a regional cuisine.

Trish Watlington, Owner, The Red Door

Owner Trish Watlington

“Because we have a year-round growing season and because it’s so easy to ship things in, we haven’t developed the kind of regional cuisine you’d find in European countries,” says Watlington, who co-owns The Red Door restaurant with her husband, Tom. “In the small regions of Europe, you start with what’s available and then you create a cuisine. We don’t do that in the U.S. It’s totally backwards.” Watlington works with local farmers to take advantage of native ingredients, including low-water crops and low-carbon-footprint animals like rabbits. The couple also owns a half-acre farm on Mount Helix that yields up to 7,000 pounds of produce, all used for their Mission Hills restaurant. Cultivating only what our surroundings can grow, she says, means supporting the local economy, eating more flavorful food, and developing a culinary identity anchored by seasonality. “True regional cuisines are made up of recipes that serve the environment and dishes that are byproducts of the primary goal, which is to protect the ecosystem for the long term,” she says. “And that cuisine should be driven by farmers, fishermen, conservationists, and environmentalists, not by the whims of a chef.”

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