With a laid-back attitude, Executive Chef Andrew Velasco guides me and my guests through a normal day of his life. With more on his plate than most people we know, we begin to admire his nonchalant manner through the most chaotic of times. As he begins to list the events and special menus that have bombarded his life, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed for him. Add in the band that he plays bass for, and the green t-shirt company he started with his brother, and you get a mind-blowing list of creative endeavors that could keep anyone busy for a lifetime. Chef Velasco jokes that he will sleep when he’s dead, but right now he is too busy.
Originally from San Diego, Chef Velasco grants that his Filipino upbringing and his early love for Mexican food are his main channels of inspiration. Perhaps being born and raised in San Diego offers illumination over his laid-back lifestyle. The casual talk we have with him is unadorned with artifice and we are able to cover a wide spectrum of topics without impinging on the Golden-State’s relaxed vibe.
Chef Velasco’s dishes also characterize his mellow (what you see is what you get) attitude. He admits that he doesn’t like to overdress his dishes, and that he prefers to keep them simple, while keeping his flavorings as charged up as possible. Nothing is overdone, and this commitment to simplicity allows him to complete and then move on to the next dish without fanfare. Keeping it real and keeping it fresh is one of the underlying themes that permeate La Playa Bistro’s cuisine. For example, Chef Velasco’s latest creation, the Tatsoi Salad, is something he conceived of when one of the restaurant’s owners wanted to have a Chinese Chicken Salad back on the menu. Chef Velasco said that it had already been done before and he wanted something a little more innovative, so that diners will be pleasantly surprised rather than settle with older dishes. The tatsoi and mizuna are Asian ingredients and Chef Velasco went ahead to see where he could go with them.
“It’s like my workshop,” said Chef Velasco. And it isn’t just the kitchen he is talking about either. Chef Velasco sees the world as his playground.
Executive Chef Velasco started out as a musician and did that as a profession for a few years until he found his calling, which was to create innovative fare for restaurateurs and their patrons. Lending his creative spirit to such establishments as Top of the Cove in La Jolla, Indigo Grill in Little Italy, and Firefly in Encinitas, it wasn’t until Chef Velasco met up with the owners of La Playa Bistro and saw the actual floor plan for the new eatery that his role as executive chef became realized.
Chef Velasco frequents the bookstore down the street almost every day and flips through the cookbooks for flavor references. His self-edification helps keep him up-to-date with different cooking styles and food essences. The natural flavorings within the dishes I am able to try at La Playa Bistro are enhanced rather than bombarded with different seasonings that may overshadow the intrinsic flavors already inside the ingredients. Chef Velasco explains that there are only a few ways to cook certain things: braise, grill, and poach. He knows how to do all these techniques and how to work with all these ingredients, but his challenge is to see what tastes good with all these different textures and flavors. He wants to try different dishes out and see if they fly, and if they do, then “cool” and he is on to the next project.
Whether it is cooking, creating art, or making music, Executive Chef Velasco would like to enrich people. His creative endeavors are an outlet for him to express himself and play around with different mediums. His words of wisdom for everyone out there: “Wu-Tan forever!” And whether you are inspired by his food or words, Chef Velasco’s down-to-earth persona is nearly contagious. In a world of over-hyped personalities and overdone venues, Executive Chef Velasco of La Playa Bistro will treat you to a dining experience filled with comfort food rich with flavors and a laid-back ambience that will make you feel right at home.