California Restaurant Association’s Chef of the Year


This past June, Ron Oliver, Chef de Cuisine at The Marine Room, was named Chef of the Year by the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association. Typically preferring to quietly go about his job without a lot of fanfare, Chef Oliver has been highly instrumental in the success of the landmark La Jolla restaurant for more than 18 years. He has also co-authored two highly acclaimed cookbooks with Executive Chef Bernard Guillas. As a world traveler, he delights in the flavors and cultures of the lands he visits and often incorporates a taste of these experiences in the dishes he creates.

So, about that award… I’m so honored to receive an award given by my peers and colleagues in the San Diego culinary community. This award is also about being a good ambassador for the industry and doing worthwhile things in the community. However, I feel strongly that this is not an individual award—there is a whole team of talented and inspirational people behind every bite I place in front of a customer, and I feel very lucky to just be a part of the process.

Your top travel favorites? 1) Lake Titicaca on the Altiplano of Bolivia. A mystical place at 14,000 feet, where the mystery of the Incas, their ghosts and their gods surround you. 2) The Cappella Palatina in Sicily. A chapel whose walls are completely covered in the most intricate and awe-striking mosaic I have ever seen. 3) Palestine. I went there looking for za’atar fields and found the warmest and friendliest people, and a land that few outsiders get to experience.

Your culinary philosophy? The kitchen is not only about making food, but creating memories and bringing happiness to people’s lives.

Must have seasonings? Turmeric—invigorating in both taste and color; achiote—earthy and complex, stimulating; lemon zest—bright and striking to the senses; and ginger—it makes you salivate, literally and figuratively.

Fave winter ingredients? Juniper berries and parsnips. In fact, a parsnip soup with a touch of juniper spice is one of my favorite winter foods.

What is the future of San Diego’s culinary scene? I see a turning away from the molecular gastronomy trend and getting back to focusing on good food values. Even though it is important to be evolutionary in one’s pursuit of culinary art, a cook should be guided by enlightenment and those things that are naturally beautiful, rather than by technology. As a community, our goal for the future should be to integrate agriculture into residential zones, to be self-reliant by planting gardens and to share the abundance. As chefs, our job is to nurture the community with tasty cuisine. The artisan food production and the sustainable practices of the past should always remain prevalent in the minds of future chefs.

What about you would surprise people? Everybody knows that I can juggle hundreds of tasks, but I’m pretty sure that nobody outside of my family knows that I’m good at juggling objects, too!

Noushin Nourizadeh
Noushin Nourizadeh