PHOTO BY JAMES TRAN
As Little Italy’s award-winning restaurant Juniper and Ivy (juniperandivy.com) heads into its eighth year, executive chef Anthony Wells is cooking up an exciting future of his own as a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: West. In anticipation of the June 13 awards ceremony in Chicago, Wells shares what the recognition means to him. Listen in.
Congratulations on your exciting nomination! What does the recognition mean to you? It felt nice; we have all been working very hard here at Juniper and Ivy for a very long time. We’ve been consistent in our philosophy of how we treat our product and how we treat our staff for almost a decade now, which, in my opinion, is outstanding. Unfortunately, the size of our restaurant puts us out of most categories for national recognition. I was honestly shocked and never had any thoughts that we would ever earn such an accolade.
You’ve been involved with Juniper and Ivy since the beginning. What does your tenure mean to you? I’ve been a part of Juniper for a quarter of my life. I can’t put into words what this place means to me; I just try not to take my position for granted and show up each day with the mindset that I need to keep earning my spot. I love that young cooks come here excited to learn and grow with us. I think our ownership plays a huge part in our success. Mike Rosen has allowed our team the ultimate creative freedom. He invests so much back into improving the restaurant, and provides support and encouragement to keep us pushing forward.
What’s your favorite dish on the menu? We’ve been aging ducks at the restaurant for almost six years now; Mike went as far as installing a walk-in cooler for ducks only. We serve it whole with leaves and condiments, and it’s awesome to share for the table. It’s become a bit of a staple here, and no matter how many hundreds of ducks go out on the pass, I still get excited each time I see it.
When you’re not in the kitchen, where would we find you dining in San Diego? You would find me at The Pho Shop for the special pho; Sushi Tadokoro—the bento box for lunch is fire and I love all the nigiri; Pete’s Seafood and Sandwich for a cup of clam chowder and the fried fish sandwich; El Pescador Fish Market for the yellowtail burro and a cup of ceviche or cioppino; Cucina Urbana for the bucatini; and The Original Sab-E-Lee for the papaya salad and pad thai.
Dream dinner party: Who’s there and what do you serve? Jacob Kilgore, Jad Adkins, Bryan Adkins, Nicole Wells, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Randy Moss, Tom Brady and Ivan McGlone. We are at my mamaw’s house in West Virginia and she’s making meatloaf—it’s so damn delicious, and I still can’t make it as good as she did—sweet tea and her apple cake.