The only restaurant south of L.A. to earn two Michelin stars, chef William Bradley’s 15-year-old Addison is breaking ground for the San Diego community.
Regiis Ova Reserve caviar is a signature on Addison’s current nine-course menu. PHOTO BY DYLAN JENI
“San Diego is my hometown and the setting that inspired me to become a chef,” says Chula Vista native William Bradley, who trained under chef James Boyce and received three James Beard Rising Star Chef nominations while executive chef at Arizona’s former Vu restaurant. In 2006, Bradley opened Addison (addisondelmar.com) in Carmel Valley, which he envisioned as a modern interpretation of French cuisine and traditions, through the lens of Southern California. The culinary world immediately took note.
Addison is housed in a Mediterranean Revival-style building PHOTO COURTESY OF ADDISON
“At the onset, I think there was an element of surprise at the level of fine dining we were aspiring to create,” says Addison chef and director Bradley, renowned for his pure, precise dishes. Named after architect Addison Mizner, who pioneered the building’s Mediterranean Revival style, Addison’s grand ambiance and secluded hillside location contribute to the experience. “When our guests arrive at the restaurant, there is the sense of escapism, and we aspire to further enhance that sensation through the service and cadence of our tasting menu.”
Chef William Bradley PHOTO BY LAUREN DI MATTEO
The California location also impacted Bradley’s approach to the cuisine, which through the years has become more regionally and less French driven. “We’ve really stripped down the experience to be fundamentally led by the ingredients, simplifying our focus and style to be more subtle and confident in the bounty of what’s available to us,” he says. “We are now champions of California gastronomy, a direction that was a natural progression for us and supports locality and the producers around us.”
Designed as a multicourse tasting experience, Addison’s Regiis Ova Reserve caviar with koshihikari rice, smoked sabayon and sesame has become a signature on the current nine-course menu, as has the chawanmushi with local broccoli and bok choy. “The chicken liver churro that’s part of our prelude at the beginning of the meal is a personal favorite that’s a nod to the formidable Mexican cuisine available to us in San Diego,” says Bradley, who credits the restraint he’s learned for his progression as a chef. “It’s allowed me to narrow my focus and approach my craft from a completely different frame of reference.”
On par with the food is Addison’s award-winning wine program, which features top California vintages and global finds. “A dish can be completely transformed by a wine pairing, and we seek to showcase rare bottles and unexpected pairings that offer an element of surprise and discovery,” says Bradley. Also integral to the flawless dining experience is the team. “Many of our colleagues have been at Addison for years—including chef de cuisine Stefani De Palma, sous-chef Jonathan Brambila and director of service Sean McGinness—and that dynamic creates a certain instinctual dynamic in the kitchen and on the floor.”
Each year since 2009, Addison’s been a Forbes Travel Guide five-star restaurant and a AAA Five Diamond restaurant. Bradley became a Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef in 2010 and has received four James Beard Best Chefs in America nominations. However, in 2019, Addison became the first San Diego restaurant to earn a Michelin star. Then, in fall 2021, after what Bradley calls “the hardest 18 months our industry has faced,” the restaurant received its second.
“It’s an exciting moment for San Diego to now have four [Michelin-starred] restaurants representing the region,” says Bradley, whose restaurant ranked 10th in the U.S. in La Liste’s 2022 international guide. “It’s incredible for San Diego’s culinary scene to have that global audience, driving interest in the city and the community of chefs, purveyors and producers who are contributing to the vibrancy of the landscape here.”
To match the shift in culinary direction, in 2020, Addison debuted a brighter, warmer interior design, and the restaurant, which turned 15 last fall, is continually refining its formula. “Our most dramatic evolution has been the transition to California gastronomy within recent years, but the experience has constantly been evolving in subtle ways,” says Bradley. “We are always pushing ourselves to be better every day.”
Meals begin with a prelude course featuring a medley of bites. PHOTO COURTESY OF ADDISON