Local Talent: Drew Deckman
By now most San Diego diners must have heard about the culinary prowess of Drew Deckman, Michelin-starred “ingredient facilitator” based in the Valle de Guadalupe. Drew has two restaurants in the Valle: the al aire libre (outdoor) Deckman’s en el Mogor, where they “bring the table to the farm,” and the newer Conchas de Piedra, where they serve “anything that has a shell.” Both restaurants exhibit Drew’s commitment to the Valle life.
Zero Kilometer Restaurant
“It’s important to us to grow as much of our food as possible. And it’s an absolute gift to run a restaurant and live this way,” Drew says.
Drew sources as many of Deckman’s en el Mogor’s ingredients as possible from the farm that shares the property, Mogor Ranch—vegetables, lamb, herbs and eggs, not to mention El Mogor’s heady wine. Friends, neighbors and Ensenada fishermen provide the cheese, seafood and other ingredients. Most of the foods you’re eating at Deckman’s grew in the land you can see from your dining table.
“Honesty in advertising is important to me. I believe in working with my neighbor before going to a store. If I can buy it next door, I’ll do it even if it costs more.” It’s going to be fresher and he knows how his neighbor treats her land, her workers, her community.
From the Sea to His Kitchen
Drew’s heart is really in sustainable fisheries. He’s even a leader in the international campaign to promote good, clean and fair seafood for all—a movement called “Slow Fish.”
Yet, sourcing seafood locally can be complicated. Seafood caught off Ensenada’s shores might travel to La Paz before it’s sold in Tijuana. Drew strives for fish that only see one hand between him and the ocean. This reduces the miles that fish travel until they get to your plate. He visits fisheries. He gets to know heads of fishery cooperatives (the groups in Mexico who coordinate fishing to better sustain the resource). If he can’t verify where the seafood came from and how it was fished, he won’t buy it.
He says his interest in responsible sourcing started with selfishness. “My original intention was not to save the ocean. My kitchen is ingredient driven, and I want those ingredients to be there for a long time. That simple. And innocent.” It was while looking for the best ingredients that he found there was more to keeping the seafood that we desire around. “You can’t talk about fisheries without talking about politics. And in Mexico you have to talk about cultural issues.”
Sharing the Valle
Deckman’s is a family business. Drew’s wife and business partner, Paulina, says they aren’t selling food at Deckman’s and Conchas. “We’re sharing an experience—our experience in the Valle. Our way of life.”
As the Valle develops, exponentially these days, Drew says he and his family hope to steward the change. “We want to share the Valle’s culture, values and sense of community and to instill those in the people yet to come here.”
“I am just hoping and praying that the Valle’s development and growth is calculated, our wines continue to improve and our ingredients continue to be superior to any I’ve ever worked with. And that thoughtful people keep visiting our paradise and share what is Valle de Guadelupe with us.”
The Deckmans also began making their own wine recently. And we’ve heard that they are looking into opening a restaurant in San Diego. Perhaps they’ll be bringing a bit of the Valle life here.