Former Top Chef Contestant Rich Sweeney Tapped As New Executive Chef Of Expansion-Ready Waypoint Public

September 24, 2015

It looks like Waypoint Public has a thing for Top Chef contestants! Top Chef Season 7 participant, Amanda Baumgarten, was the founding executive chef at Waypoint until her departure earlier this year for Chicago, but the North Park, beer-centric eatery has found a suitable replacement, tapping Season 5 contestant Rich Sweeney to take the reigns. Formerly the executive chef of Florent Restaurant & Lounge and now-defunct R Gang Eatery, Sweeney comes to Waypoint with a plethora of experience and intends to redesign the menu in the coming months. Owners John Pani and Brian Jensen have also indicated that new Waypoint locations are in San Diego's future for 2016.

"I'm BEYOND excited about this opportunity!" explained Sweeney. "Not only do I feel that owners John Pani and Brian Jensen, and general manager Travis LeGrand, and I all share the same hospitality philosophies, I've got some amazing culinary and service teams in place who are all eager to help take Waypoint Public to the next level - both in North Park, and the planned expansion we are looking at as a company!"

Chef Rich Sweeney was raised in the restaurant business, having parents who owned bakeries and managed eateries in his native Long Island. After relocating to America's Finest City and graduating from the San Diego Culinary Institute, Sweeney accepted a position as line cook at Harrah’s Rincon Resort & Casino. After several months learning the ins and outs of the back-of-the-house line, he was offered the opportunity to apprentice under prominent local chef, Chris Walsh, one of the originators of the ‘small-plates’ dining movement in San Diego, at a then-downtown dining hot-spot, Confidential Restaurant + Loft. Starting at the bottom, Sweeney quickly worked his way up the chain, eventually becoming Walsh’s Executive Sous Chef. Sweeney went on to compete as a Season 5 contestant on Bravo TV's Emmy-winning hit reality show, Top Chef.

In 2009, Sweeney bid farewell to Confidential to embark on his dream to open his own restaurant. Born from an idea that great food can be gourmet without being pretentious, and eating it should always be fun, in June 2010 Sweeney opened R Gang Eatery which received local and global praise, from San Diego Magazine’s “Best Restaurants” to features on LOGO TV, Food Network, The Travel Channel and, to Sweeney himself winning the coveted “Chef of the Fest” title at the 10th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival in 2013, a $50,000 grand prize package. Sweeney closed R Gang in May 2015. Currently, he lives in San Diego’s vibrant Hillcrest neighborhood with his partner Steve and two chocolate labs.

Catch Sweeney at the ten chef/ten course Heavenly Hog Fall Pig Out on October 12 at Blush Ice Bar, where he will take on the pork shoulder for course #4.