On a cool Saturday in Los Angeles, Chef William Bradley is prepping for service replete in his chef’s whites. However, this is the last Saturday service that Bradley will complete without his restaurant Addison’s latest distinction, a third Michelin Star. For Bradley, achieving this highest honor is something that has been ingrained in him since he first discovered his passion for the culinary arts. “I’ve had wonderful opportunities in my career to move to different cities, and the balance of life and the beauty of this area and the culture of San Diego have always inspired me,” says Bradley. “The cuisine here has always had an amazing sense of place, and I wanted to help see it grow.” That mindset has done wonders for Bradley, who took over Addison more than fifteen years ago, thereby cementing San Diego’s standing as a culinary destination. “A lot of people would never think that or dream that [San Diego would be recognized by the Michelin Guide],” says Bradley. “In inspires me every day.” So we sat down with Chef Bradley ahead of Monday’s Star Revelation event to get his breakdown of California gastronomy, how he conceives the dishes behind the Stars, and what’s next for him and Addison.
“When we first opened the restaurant, we wanted to make it unique and something the area hadn’t seen before,” says Bradley. Transforming Addison into a global destination started decades before Bradley even took the helm through his experience. After being trained and mentored by Chef James Boyce at the Azzura Point at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Bradley went to work as sous chef of the award-winning Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician in Scottsdale before becoming executive chef at the acclaimed Scottsdale restaurant Vu. With a unique path, Bradley forged his way and returned to San Diego in 2006 to helm Addison. “We were heavily rooted in the French methodology and the way the menus are structured,” explains Bradley. “We’ve evolved and now it’s a laser focus on our region to make the dishes feel more unique.” That distinctiveness comes from a reverence for the best ingredients, the majority of which are locally sourced. “It gives us an authentic voice in the gastronomic world and embraces San Diego and California as our sense of place,” says Bradley. “There can be touches of Japanese, Thai, lots of Latin influences, but a lot of our techniques are rooted in French techniques.”
But in 2010, a chance visit by The French Laundry’s Thomas Keller solidified Bradley’s standing in the culinary community and made him a star. “I never worked for him, though I staged at The French Laundry, and now we’re very good friends,” says Bradley with a touch of childlike wonderment that he and Keller are friends. “We have a saying here at Addison — all in, all the time,” says Bradley. “That was apparent at The French Laundry. Everyone was so intense but in a good way, where they take ownership in the restaurant.” Some of those catching Bradley’s eye in the kitchen were Corey Lee of Benu and San Ho Won and his own former chef de partie, Anthony Secviar, now the chef at Protégé. “Chef Keller is the Paul Bocuse of America. Without him, this wouldn’t exist. He, along with the late Charlie Trotter, did tasting menus and drove gastronomy in America.”
The menu includes everything from chicken liver churros to caviar, all meant to tantalize through the sights and tastes. “With all things haute couture or haute cuisine it starts with the materials,” says Bradley. “Thats the foundation [and] we really think through the elements of taste. By putting all these together you come up with a composition that is yours. It’s extremely important to have our own voice.” And after earning Star after Star, it appears that Bradley has found his voice. However, greeting guests inside the kitchen is another quote that rings true with Bradley from Frédy Girardet, one of the world’s greatest chefs, reading, “One can only do well what one loves.” Having earned his third Star, how does Bradley feel? “It’s something we will protect, cherish, and honor forever.”