Javier Plascencia made a name for himself as a Mexican chef with big aspirations in 2015 when he opened his Little Italy restaurant, Bracero in San Diego. Unfortunately, his culinary genius was short lived when Bracero closed in 2017, along with the closure of his Romesco eatery in Chula Vista. Before the collapse of Plascencia’s restaurants, the talented chef was nominated for a James Beard award but failed to win and took his business back to Mexico.
Nestled in the heart of Baja’s wine district, Javier Plascencia runs Animalon and Finca Altozano. These are only two of the fantastic eateries he’s known for, but it looks like he may be adding to the roster with a possible return to American soil. Last month, Plascencia was a special guest chef at California Clambake which was hosted at the renowned Hotel Del, but this was just a taste of what he’s bringing to the western coast of the United States.
Leaning and Growing in San Diego
Plascencia has said that part of the problem with previous restaurants in San Diego was layout and inexperience, but with his sea legs finally ready to withstand California food trend currents, he’s readier than ever before to take on what San Diego fires at him. He admitted during an interview this year that kitchen designs, specifically having two kitchens with Bracero, was part of the reason it didn’t flourish as much as it could have. With his new interest in reopening in the San Diego area, this learning experience could make him a worthy opponent for local eateries.
Another issue faced by Plascencia has been the inability for high-end Mexican cuisine to take off as much as it has in its home land of Mexico. While San Diego revolves around a hugely Latin-centric food movement, the laid-back surf and dine feel has made most Mexican eateries much more casual. Plascencia says he isn’t worried about the challenge, but that he understands it. During an interview with San Diego Magazine, he admitted the following about Californians and Mexican cuisine, “They need a little bit more time to understand why a taco costs five dollars if you’re using heirloom corn. That’s a lot of work and a lot of labor. If you want to use fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients, it costs more.”
It may not be recognized as a “food town”, but San Diego’s foodie culture has been evolving, and it may just the right time for movers and shakers like Plascencia to try and cultivate some of that food optimism here.
What does the future hold for Javier Plascencia and will his newest restaurant endeavors flourish in the San Diego food scene? Only time will tell for sure, but if you got an opportunity to check out Javier at the Del’s clambake, you already know that this chef has the potential for greatness wherever he chooses to work. Hopefully some of this culinary bravery will bubble over into other parts of the city and give high-end Mexican cuisine a fighting chance.