San Diego Chef Behind Lionfish & Newly-Opened Serẽa Awarded James Beard Foundation Recognition For Sustainable Seafood

September 10, 2019

San Diego's own Chef Jose "JoJo" Ruiz has again been recognized as a James Beard Foundation Smart Catch Leader, this time for the newly-opened Serẽa, making it the only restaurant on Coronado Island to receive this recognition for sustainably sourcing seafood.

Chef Ruiz was also recognized by the prestigious culinary foundation for the second time as a Smart Catch Leader for the Gaslamp Quarter's Lionfish, making it the only restaurant in downtown San Diego to receive the recognition. Fewer than 20 of California’s estimated 76,000 restaurants are recognized by Smart Catch. Serẽa, located at the historic Hotel del Coronado, and the Gaslamp District’s Lionfish - both of which are helmed by Partner/Chef Ruiz - were recognized due to their commitment to sustainable seafood and menu diversity.

Chef JoJo preparing his tableside whole fish
"We were committed to sustainable sourcing when we opened both Lionfish and Serẽa, not for the accolades, but because it was right," Chef Ruiz said. "I grew up in San Diego. The ocean is a part of who I am. There was never a question that my menus wouldn’t be focused on sustainability. To be recognized twice as a Smart Catch Leader is humbling, but to able to do my part to make sure future generations have sustainable food sources is even better."

In order to be recognized by James Beard Foundation, restaurant menus must meet or exceed 80 percent sustainability, and restaurants must submit to three assessments per year. Further, "red' items, or seafood that is overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life, can only appear twice on menus and must total 8 percent volume or less.  As one of the country’s most prominent culinary institutions, the James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch is a program created by chefs for chefs with the purpose of increasing the sustainability of the seafood supply chain. Serẽa and Lionfish are two of three restaurants in the San Diego area to have earned this Smart Catch Leader recognition.

Opened in February 2017 from Clique Hospitality, Lionfish quickly became one of the leading restaurant innovators in San Diego. At Lionfish, Chef Ruiz showcases his talent in sushi, seafood and coastal cuisine at the bustling Fifth Avenue hotspot at Pendry San Diego. As a technique-driven eatery, Lionfish sets itself apart from other restaurants in the city, showcasing careful precision that elevates each dish for the diner. Chef Ruiz prides himself with a seasonal San Diego-inspired menu of modern coastal cuisine serving fresh sustainable seafood. The other is Carlsbad's The Land & Water Company, from owner and Executive Chef Rob Ruiz.

Serēa opened at the historic Hotel Del Mar earlier this summer, with a sea-inspired menu complimented by scenic Pacific Ocean views. While breathing in fresh sea air, diners partake in Chef Ruiz’s fresh-catch cooking done in a simple, elegant manner for the ultimate sea-to-table experience. The approachable cuisine prepared by Chef JoJo and his team features seasonal ingredients grown by Southern California farmers, as well as an ocean-friendly menu robust with fresh seafood and a raw bar.

For more information about Lionfish, Serẽa and the James Beard Smart Catch program, please visit annd sereasandiego