From the South to the Sea

Randy Gruber

Interview by Josh Kopelman

What early memories most inspire your cooking?

All of them, really. [Laughs] I grew up in a restaurant family and have always been exposed to it. As a fourth generation restaurateur, I find the kitchen to be an inspiring environment.

Tell us about a dish or recipe from those early days that really inspired you.

My aunt Ellen once made an unbelievable Champagne chicken dish with mushrooms. She created it while I was in the kitchen with her, so I saw the whole dish come together. She also made incredible chocolate-dipped strawberries paired with Heath bars. I still put these strawberries on my menu—paired with Champagne as a special dessert.

What travels have been important to your career and to your cooking?

I spent time in New Orleans while I studied at Tulane and that scene really got me into Southern cooking. Since then, I’ve traveled around the world and been inspired by a wealth of different cuisines, especially Mediterranean. I just love Mediterranean ingredients and the menu at Americana reflects that. It’s really a melting pot.

What are some of your favorite dishes in the Big Easy?

Camillia Grill is dynamite for breakfast. Frankie & Johnny’s has the best Crawfish, Barbecue Shrimp, and legendary Stuffed Artichokes. Visit ACME Bar & Grille for oysters and Turtle Soup; Fat Harry’s for late-night Buffalo Wings and Garlic Cheesy Fries; and Domolicci’s for the world’s best Shrimp Po’boys.

On the home front, who are your favorite San Diego chefs?

Andrew Spurgin is a true culinarian. He cooks out of love and a passion for creating delicious food, presented in a spectacular way. Olivier Bioteau, who used to own The Farm House Café, is fantastic. The Farm House was one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. I really respect that he would work six nights a week, expediting or working the line. That’s rare for an established chef. He’s now at The Lodge at Torrey Pines and I look forward to enjoying one of his great meals there.