THE MED’s Executive Chef Timothy Ralphs’ priority is happy guests.

Photos BY Mandy Schaffer

With a graduate degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, experience in kitchens around the world including New York’s James Beard House in 2014, and his most recent executive position at Denver’s historic Brown Palace, Timothy Ralphs could have a pretty big ego. But that’s not the case. This summer, this San Diego native was named executive chef at THE MED, the signature restaurant at La Jolla’s iconic La Valencia Hotel. Chef Timothy says he’s glad to be back home—but not as glad as we are.

What inspires you most about becoming THE MED’s executive chef? Being here at La Valencia is an inspiration in itself. The hotel has such a rich history, and it’s in such a fantastic location overlooking the ocean. There are so many great influences culturally when it comes to food. Plus, we’re in California, with access to the freshest produce and seafood. From a chef’s perspective, there’s really no better place in the world to be.

You have an excellent reputation for creating dishes that appeal to the eye as well as the palate. How important is this to you? When the plate goes down in front of you, you eat with your eyes first. I want this moment to be engaging and exciting. I give the written menu a little mystery so when you first see the plate, you’re delighted. I’ve always been drawn to colorful things. My grandmother always had a puzzle out at home, and I loved to work on it. As a chef, I apply this experience to the plate so that it all fits together and every bite that you take has a perfect balance to it.

As a Certified Advanced Sommelier and Cicerone, how do you prepare for THE MED’s Wine Dinner Series? It’s not difficult, but it involves a lot of tasting. I taste the wines we plan to pour to understand their flavors and determine what dishes they’ll pair with best. It’s just as we do when we’re selecting wines for the wine list on our regular dinner menu. We feature some wonderful wines, and it’s my goal to present them in the most delicious way possible.

THE MED has such a distinct dining room. How would you like to influence it? There are chefs who cook for themselves—to show off what they can do. That’s not me. I cook for the guests. What I’m most interested in is cooking for a full dining room of happy people who appreciate fun, innovative dishes. THE MED is a fine dining room, but it isn’t pretentious or fussy. I want the food to represent the room’s casual sophistication with a bit of whimsy. The menu will be seasonally driven with more of a play on genres and styles to make fun and interesting dishes. Also, many oenophiles enjoy other beverages and the millennials are just as interested in other beverages. I’m picturing whiskey-paired dinners, beer tasting on the patio, and a full room of happy diners savoring the food and the sunset.

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