Former El Barbecue Owner Joins Cohn Restaurant Group's Coasterra As New Executive Chef

May 24, 2024

The former owner of El Barbecue, Ami Cisneros Standafer has joined San Diego's Cohn Restaurant Group as the new Executive Chef of Harbor Island's Coasterra restaurant.

Since graduating from San Diego Culinary Institute in 2010, San Diego native chef Ami Cisneros Standafer has been cooking in San Diego's top kitchens, including JRDN in Pacific Beach, Mister A's in Bankers Hill, and Grand Ole BBQ Flynn Springs, which was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives during Ami's tenure as Executive Chef. In summer 2020, Chef Ami ventured off on her own, partnering with her then boyfriend, now husband, pit master Brandon Standafer, to open El Barbecue in San Diego's Sherman Heights neighborhood.

Last year, Ami was a contestant on Food Network's BBQ Brawl cooking competition television series, where she excelled on Team Bobby Flay. This past October, after having their first child, Ami and Brandon made the difficult decision to close El Barbecue, much to the dismay of loyal fans who lined up around the block on the restaurant's last day in business.

Ami has now joined Cohn Restaurant Group as the new Executive Chef of Coasterra on San Diego's Harbor Island. Chef Ami is getting the lay of the land but will soon put her touches on the menu at the $15+ million bay front, modern Mexican restaurant, lounge, and event space.

"I'm very excited to be a part of the CRG family and work with chef Deb Scott, and corporate chef Ricardo Heredia and Evan Cruz," commented Chef Ami Cisneros. "We are working on updating the menu and highlighting the skillsets of people on our team.  We are raising the standard in San Diego for Mexican food by updating some classics and presenting some great flavors to our guests."

Chef Ami will update Coasterra's menu and introducing new dishes starting in early summer. She intends to source ingredients from top producers, including local fish from Tommy Gomes' TunaVille Market, beef from Sonora, MX, and prime pork from Marin Sun Farms. Expect items like dry aged duck in red mole from Oaxaca, Sonoran skirt steak with bone marrow and tomatillo sauce, homemade churros, and coconut ginger ceviche. 

Coasterra is located at 880 Harbor Island Drive across from the airport in downtown San Diego's Harbor Island. For more information, visit