Decorated & Beloved Local Chef Leaving San Diego For Northern California Opportunity

February 25, 2023

Beloved San Diego chef James Montejano is leaving America's Finest City for a new executive chef position at a San Francisco restaurant institution.

After graduating from the California Culinary Academy in 1993, James Montejano started working at Aqua in San Francisco where he trained under renowned chef restaurateurs George Morrone and Michael Mina, and was promoted to sous chef within just two years. He then worked with Jeffrey Strauss at Pampelmousse in Solana Beach. His first Executive Chef position was in La Jolla at now-closed Cafe Japengo. After winning two consecutive annual awards for Best Sushi from the California Restaurant Association, Chef James decided to widen his horizons

Over the next few years, Chef Montejano headed a casino steakhouse in Valley View, launched Jade Restaurant in downtown San Diego, and introduced a sustainable, organic, farm-to-table menu at La Papagayo in Leucadia. He then seized an opportunity to return northward to work with Michael Mina again as part of the reopening team of his Michelin Star Restaurant in San Francisco. Before taking over the kitchen at La Valencia in 2014, Chef James worked at The Trident in Sausalito. In April 2016, the self-appointed "People's Chef" left The Pink Lady to assist in the expansion of Cardiff Seaside Market. Montejano’s accolades include People's Choice and Best Seafood honors at the 2014 San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, and in 2015 he was voted Best of the Best Dining at Battle of the Chef Bands, as well as March of Dimes’ Best of the Fest.

Montejano joined RMD Group in fall 2018 to assist the growing hospitality company in developing the culinary side of the company's numerous dining venues, including the multi-concept restaurant constructed at the historic Grand Pacific Hotel building in the heart of the Gaslamp. When Huntress steakhouse finally opened in summer 2020, Montejano led the kitchen at the downtown destination restaurant. In mid-2021, Montejano left the RMD Group to return to the employ of his mentor Michael Mina, taking the lead in the kitchen at International Smoke in Del Mar. Most recently, the rock and roll-loving Montejano was working as part of the culinary team of the Swagyu Chophouse chain of Wagyu-focused restaurants. 

Chef Montejano will leave San Diego next week to take over as Executive Chef at the 30+ year old McCormick & Kuleto's in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square. The restaurant is owned under the Landry's Hospitality umbrella, a global company with over 600 restaurants in their portfolio. McCormick & Kuleto's is undergoing a major remodel of the restaurant, which was built by iconic restaurant designer Patrick Kuleto in the early 1990s. Montejano will be tasked with updating the iconic seafood & steakhouse's menu and overseeing day to day kitchen operations. 

Follow along Chef James Montejano's journey by following him on Instagram