A Word With Chef Jose

A brief interview with Chef Jose Fraire, our Food and Beverage Director at Bistro 39.  Jose gave us insight into the fresh new menu items, the story of how he grew from the role of dishwasher to lead cook over the span of his culinary career, and how guests continue to inspire him every day. 

Tell us about your background.  It’s pretty impressive!

My passion has always been food, but when I moved here from Mexico in 2005, I knew that I needed to start somewhere.  I started working at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla as a dishwasher. But I hated washing dishes! So I would go behind the cooks and ask them questions. After 9 months of learning, a cook at George’s left, and I got the chance to move up to line cook. I learned very quickly, and years later I eventually moved up to lead cook. Seafood, steaks, poultry – I loved everything.

When I started working at Bistro 39 Restaurant and Lounge seven years ago, I learned the cuisine from the chef who was here before…  but I started to create my own recipes. When the last chef at Bistro 39 moved back to New York, I told the restaurant owner, “Mr. Rauch, I want the chance.” They interviewed a few different chefs, but I got the chance to be the Kitchen Manager. Then, last year, I was promoted to Food and Beverage Director.

You re-launched the menu in March this year. What is different about it?

There’s definitely a hint of Mexican influence. The menu before was only American food. Slowly we changed the flavors, and mixed in California cuisine.

Now the food is more like art, with color. There are a ton of different flavors in the food.

We also have a new wine list, a new happy hour, and we have the weekends where kids eat free. Every single day is different at the bar.

What are some of the best dishes that you added to the menu?

Some of the best dishes we added this year are the Shrimp Chipotle & Bacon Wrapped Scallops, the Pistachio Crusted Seared Salmon featuring a cauliflower puree, the Stuffed Chicken Marsala, the Short Rib Tacos and Short Rib Pizza.

‘You pay for what you eat – flavor!’

Tell us about the “local, fresh ingredients”. What does locally grown really mean?

We have a local produce company here in San Diego. We must support California fields. We could get all the vegetables from different companies, but we choose to support local companies that have really fresh produce. They deliver 7 days a week, same day delivery.

Everything is fresh, even the produce. The fish is not frozen. We only use the best cuts of meat. All the beef, everything – it’s from local companies. And the quality is the best in San Diego. You pay for what you eat – flavor!

Who or what motivates you?

For one, my two children Kaden and Kloey keep me motivated.  Seeing them smile keeps me going every day.

One of the guests who left yesterday was really happy with the food. They travel a lot, but still they said this is the best Hilton that they’ve ever stayed at. They commented on the food and the flavor, and it makes me feel really good. I try new things that many chefs don’t like to try. I like to mix up everything, all the local ingredients, experiment with new things.

We want to be the best restaurant inside a hotel. That’s what makes me keep going!

Thanks, Jose.  That’s what keeps us going, too.