San Diego Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins Named As Best Chef Semi-Finalist By Prestigious James Beard Foundation

February 27, 2019

Earlier today, the highly-esteemed James Beard Foundation released its list of 2019 awards semifinalists, and San Diego chef and former Top Chef contestant Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins is our city's lone inclusion - being named amongst 19 others in the Best Chef: West category.

Raised on both sides of the border in San Diego and Tijuana, Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins started her career as a pastry chef with stints at Sea180 in Imperial Beach and Jsix in East Village. She went on to be hired by acclaimed chef Javier Plascencia as the opening chef de cuisine of the now-defunct Bracero Cocina de Raiz in Little Italy in 2015. In 2017, Claudette competed in the second season of Top Chef Mexico, followed directly by appearing as a contestant on Season 15 of Bravo’s Top Chef, where she earned a less than savory reputation with her other cheftestants. In June 2018, Chef Claudette opened Rise & Shine Breakfast Group's El Jardin modern Mexican restaurant in Liberty Station. El Jardin currently has a cumulative 3.5 Yelp rating out of 245 reviews and a 3.8 rating on Google with 79 reviews.

The list of James Beard semifinalists will soon be narrowed to five finalists in each of the 21 categories, with the announcement to be made on Wednesday, March 27. Winners will be crowned at the James Beard Awards Gala on Monday, May 6 in Chicago.  

See the full list of James Beard 2019 Awards semifinalists at