Part Four of SanDiegoVille's 4-Part Series: An Interview with San Diego MasterChef Contestant Savannah Sturges

Photo by Greg Gayne/Fox
Copyright 2013 Fox Broadcasting
June 26, 2013

Our last interview with MasterChef finalists of San Diego is with the sweet and unassuming Savannah Sturges, who finds cooking to be a form of therapy, a notion we very much relate to.  Savannah has steered clear of the wrath of the three MasterChef judges up to this point, but who knows what tonight has in store for the contestants.  Make sure to tune in Wednesdays at 8pm and keep rooting for your favorite San Diego native!    
What do you believe San Diego's greatest asset/contribution to the culinary world to be? 

San Diego has a huge craft beer and cocktail market which I think provides us the opportunity to create interesting dishes that showcase our "craft culture" here in San Diego. 

Photo from Savannah's website:
Photo by Derrick Almero
What are your three favorite places to dine in San Diego, and what dishes are not to miss?

Romesco's in Bonita has amazing tapas that are a mix of flavors from Mexico and Spain. I love pizza! My two favorites are: URBN (try the mashed potato pizza) and Pizzeria Bruno (every pizza there is great and authentically Italian). Lastly, I love Lion's Share. They have an amazing burger with a duck egg and wild boar bacon. It's out of this world! 

You stated your favorite dish is a thin crust mashed potato pizza with mozz and prosciutto from URBN. What are some other local faves?

I have so many local favorite restaurants that it's hard to narrow it down.  My favorite burger is at the Neighborhood. I love breakfast at The Mission in downtown San Diego, and a family favorite for Italian food is at a place called Lido's in Lemon Grove. 

You said your favorite type of cuisine is Mexican food, and we know you grew up eating it living in San Diego. Tell us about your favorite Mexican joints and your favorite dishes from each!

My favorite Mexican food restaurants are: Romesco's - its Mexican meets Mediterranean; TJ Oyster Bar has the best fish tacos ever; and Lolita's is an awesome hole in the wall taco shop. I grew up eating there. 

You've traveled extensively in Mexico. What are some culinary highlights of San Diego's neighbor south of the border?

Lobster in Puerto Nuevo and street food in TJ like elotes, tacos and tostilocos are some of my favorites. 

What is your favorite San Diego neighborhood and why?

I love South Park. It's so quaint and walkable. There are some great places to eat and drink like the Station Tavern and Hamilton's

Let us in on your favorite recipe.

I lived in Spain for a semester and while I was there I learned how to make authentic paella. Here is my little secret:

1 cup arborio rice
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 TB paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of saffron
1 tomato diced
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
1/2 onion diced
2 gloves garlic minced
4 oz. mini chicken wings
4 oz. pork chop steak cubed
1/2 lb. mussels
1/2 lb. shrimp
1/2 lb. squid
TT salt and pepper

Season pork and chicken wings with paprika and garlic powder and refrigerate for 30 min - 1 hr. Heat skillet on med high. Season chicken and pork with salt and pepper. Add canola oil and once hot brown chicken for a few minutes on each side and remove and set aside. Add fresh oil and brown pork on all sides. Remove and set aside. Saute chopped vegetables (onion, peppers, garlic) in the same pan until translucent. Add tomatoes and saute for 2 minutes. Incorporate rice and toast with the vegetables until golden brown. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add saffron. Let the mixture cook for ten minutes. Do not stir! This is very important. No stirring paella! After 10 minutes add mussels and calamari. Five minutes later add shrimp on top, turning after 3 minutes. After a total of 20-23 minutes the rice should be done and its ready to serve!

Thank you to San Diego's own Savannah Sturges for sharing with us her favorites from all around town and an amazing recipe to boot!  Be sure to give Savannah some good mojo for her journey to become the next MasterChef!