San Diego-based hospitality collective CH Projects (Ironside Fish & Oyster, UnderBelly, Soda & Swine) proudly announces the addition of Research & Development Chef, Phillip Esteban (David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar, The Cork & Craft, Nine-Ten, Tender Greens) to Chef/Partner Jason McLeod’s team of culinary veterans. A native San Diegan, Esteban graduated from the Culinary Institute of San Diego in 2006, and began working at Barrio Logan’s former The Guild Restaurant & Lounge, where regulars included a young Arsalun Tafazoli, co-owner of CH Projects.
A serendipitous run-in with Tafazoli would later lead Esteban to join his team as in 2010 as sous chef of CH’s first Little Italy venture, Craft & Commerce. After nearly a year cutting his chops in Craft’s fast-paced, high-profile kitchen, Esteban’s innate desire to continue learning led him to a position alongside Tender Greens’ Pete Balistreri—who taught Esteban the ins and outs of crafting artisan charcuterie. Esteban spent the next five years traveling throughout Southern California to assist in Tender Greens’ brand expansion.
In 2012, Esteban further enhanced his culinary experience by heading to the pressure cooker of American cuisine, New York City, and within 24-hours landed a job at the legendary Momofuku Ssäm Bar (World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2009-2012). For the next year, he spent his time divided—when he wasn’t working for world famous, Michelin-starred chef David Chang, he was staging on his days off learning the operations of New York’s most revered kitchens including Thomas Keller’s Per Se, Michael White’s Marea, Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park, and Wylie Dufresne’s former wd~50.
Esteban returned to San Diego in 2013 with an immeasurable amount of culinary and operational experience and accepted a lead position alongside Jason Knibb at Nine-Ten prior to becoming the Executive Chef of The Cork & Craft in Rancho Bernardo in 2014.
As Research & Development Chef of CH Projects, Esteban will oversee menu development and help facilitate culinary progression alongside CH’s Chef/Partner, Jason McLeod, for concepts including Soda & Swine, Ironside Fish & Oyster, Craft & Commerce, UnderBelly, Rare Form, Neighborhood, as well as Born & Raised (anticipated opening Q1 of 2017). Additionally, Phil Esteban most looks forward to promoting an ongoing education built into the collective’s cultural fabric.
“I’ve been so fortunate to have the opportunity to grow and expand my perspective through travel,” says Phillip Esteban. “The most important lesson I’ve learned, and one that I hope to bring to the CH team in my new role, is the importance of self-enrichment. I want to help grow our company culture to create an environment that continues to foster leadership, knowledge, technique and character through team opportunities like farm tours, culinary & beverage education and volunteering.”
As a natural born leader, Esteban’s equally humble and inspiring character creates a platform to both teach and be taught. On his days off, he donates his time to aspiring teen chefs from San Diego Unified School District’s Culinary Arts & Management program as well as the local non-profit, Kitchens for Good.
“We’re excited to introduce this new research and development position within our collective,” says CH Chef/Partner, Jason McLeod. “We deeply admire Phil’s likeminded passion for education and mentorship, and we look forward to growing our team in an effort to push San Diego’s culinary conversation and the standards of expectation forward.”
ABOUT CH PROJECTS | California’s southern-most city, San Diego, has for decades been known as a casual, sleepy coastal getaway with a culinary scene to match—fish tacos and Mexican lager epitomized an attitude not unlike that of an adolescent sibling to that of its mature, celebrity chef-embellished neighbor-to-the-north. Enter CH Projects, the visionary restaurateurs-come-social engineering duo that is pioneering the city’s now burgeoning cultural progression with twelve ambitious concepts (Fairweather, Rare Form, Ironside Fish & Oyster, Juice Saves, Polite Provisions, Soda & Swine, Craft & Commerce, False Idol, Neighborhood, UnderBelly, Noble Experiment, El Dorado Cocktail Lounge). CH Projects has cultivated an intrinsic core philosophy—that a space should inspire, its design aesthetic and culinary/cocktail paradigm allowing for the seemingly lost art of conversation to thrive in an environment that fosters charisma, thoughtful dialogue, and the resurgence of real human interaction. In stark contrast to the overwhelming neon lights and volatile drone that emanates from plasma screens-as-art in less calculated restaurant and bar settings, CH Projects’ establishments eschew trendy, stagnant décor and menus in favor of an eclectic, contemporary quality borne out of the collaborative efforts of like-minded individuals with a hunger (and thirst) for innovation. CH-Projects.com