Chef Luis Martinez has cooked in Spain and completed his culinary degree in New York, but he’s back at his hometown in San Diego attributing his culinary skills to Bully’s East Restaurant-- the headquarters for San Diego’s most notorious prime rib. With just one year of Bully’s experience under his belt so far, Martinez is showing promise at this infamous Southern California hotspot. But after 10 years in the restaurant industry, he’s not showing any sign of slowing down.
As no stranger to the San Diego dining scene, Martinez grew up in Alpine and grew a liking for cooking while working as a busboy in various East County restaurants, learning the trade as he moved around from job to job. With more experience comes better promotions—and it was when he became a line cook that his interests turned into passions. He co-founded Penfold’s in Temecula as their Sous Chef. After deciding to take his career to the next level, Martinez graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2008 with an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts, and a Bachelors Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. During his time in New York, he worked with various high end catering companies which catered to celebrities such as Martha Stewart, Chevy Chase, Earth Wind and Fire, and others. Martinez traveled to Spain during the duration of his schooling, and worked at Via Veneto in Barcelona as an apprentice. After his move back to the states, he worked at the Downtown Convention Center, at the luxurious Elario’s Bistro and Sky Lounge inside the Hotel La Jolla, and was the chef at Romano’s Dodge House in Julian. Martinez settled in with Bully’s in 2009 as their new head chef and has proved to be a positive addition.
Martinez has a simple cooking philosophy, which is to say that he literally likes things to be “simple.” By using minimal ingredients, Martinez doesn’t believe in “overwhelming—but rather maintaining the original flavors” of food, and feels that using just a few ingredients per dish are more important than trying to be bold in both presentation and flavor—a notion that can be coined as “the food should speak for itself.” This can be seen and tasted through the presentation and taste in his dishes. His cooking brings the essence of each natural ingredient into the forefront. This skill can be something admired by foodies and other chef’s alike, as he is setting an example for those who get too overzealous about spices, sauces, and seasonings. Instead, he centralizes his flavor through an inspiration from international cuisine, both traditional and contemporary.
Though Bully’s East has maintained a consistent menu throughout the years, the challenge of coming to an already established restaurant is an easy fit for Martinez. He has added a few new dishes of his own to the menu, including Steamed Manilla Clams in Their Own Broth, the Surf and Turf sushi roll, Braised Beef Bones, and the Trifecta Roll. Bully’s is known for consistency as well as simplicity in their traditional dishes, and even though Martinez has international experience, his talents fit in seamlessly.
As for the prime rib, he’s mastered the art. “The slow roast is everything,” he said.