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Urban Kitchen Group's New Executive Chef Tim Kolanko Talks Taking Over Some of San Diego's Best Restaurants

Jessie Wade Smith | May 15, 2019 | Food & Drink


Urban Kitchen Group, which runs Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill, Cucina Sorella in Kensington and Cucina Enoteca in Del Mar, recently appointed Tim Kolanko as the restaurant collective’s new executive chef. Best known for his work as the founding chef at The Lodge at Torrey Pines’ A.R. Valentien, Kolanko gives us the scoop on what he has in store for some of San Diego’s best-loved eateries.

What most excites you about working with Urban Kitchen Group?
A fresh challenge. I have a natural affinity for Cucina’s style of cooking, but I’m also excited to explore new culinary opportunities and push the boundaries a bit. It’s no coincidence that the restaurant group has remained one of the city’s most respected collectives over the past decade. They understand the trifecta of hospitality, cuisine and sense of place, and I couldn’t be more excited to learn and grow within their team.

Can you give us a sneak peek into any menu changes?
I recently had an idea for a dish of baked mussels with lightly pickled fresh seaweed, fennel and ’nduja butter that I’m pretty excited about. We’ll have to wait and see if it makes it onto the menus.

What does SoCal-meets-classic Italian mean to you?
Fresh, unfussy, made using local ingredients with respect for tradition.

Why is the sustainable food movement so important?
The broad answer is that we affect the environment, local economies and people’s health with the purchasing choices we make. The more focused answer is our relationship to the guests we serve every day. Cooking is an intimate act, and I love what I do because I love to nourish and satisfy people. We have an obligation to provide food that is delicious, safe and good for our guests. It’s our responsibility as chefs to understand where ingredients come from, how they are raised and what’s in them. The guest is trusting us to take care of them, so we have to make a constant, conscious effort to stay informed in order to hold up our end of that deal.

When you are not in the kitchen cooking, what do you like to do?
I enjoy skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding.
I’m fortunate to be here in San Diego, where all three are very accessible. When I’m relaxing, I enjoy reading and spending time in my garden.


Photography by: john dole