William Bradley isn’t just a chef, he’s a cookbook collector. Since his teenage foray into the kitchen of a local Italian restaurant in Bonita, California, Bradley knew he’d found his life’s passion. And collecting cookbooks, especially rare vintage editions, has since become a kind of sidelong hobby. “I love the history of eating,” says Bradley, “and [I] really believe to be creative, you need to have a strong sense of tradition.”
This respect for the tradition and history of food has been a foundation for Bradley’s culinary ambitions since his youth. A San Diego native, Bradley spent a few of his early culinary years outside of the city, under the guidance of his mentor James Boyce at Azzura Point at Loews Coronado Bay Resort and then again under Boyce as a sous chef at the award winning Phoenician in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Bradley also worked as the executive chef at the critically acclaimed Vu Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa, where he was nominated for a James Beard “Rising Star Chef” award for three years in a row. Bradley earns such attention for his commitment to simplicity and sophistication, prioritizing the purity of flavors and textures in perfect combination.
And since 2006, Bradley has translated this passion for fresh, sophisticated cuisine at Addison, the signature dining venue of The Grand Del Mar, where he has earned the Forbes, formerly Mobil, Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Awards for 2010 and 2009, respectively—the first and only restaurant in San Diego to earn such accreditation.
Interview with Chef William Bradley of Addison – San Diego, CAAntoinette Bruno:
What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
I really enjoy the whole process of cooking. To do it professionally is a bonus. I love the whole notion of food. When I first started I was inspired by Jean-Georges and Alain Passard.
AB: Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs?
WB: No, [I’m] self taught. I don't look for culinary school [graduates]. I look for drive, determination,l and people that are humble. I hired a girl who worked at a pizza place and now she is a back waiter. Ruth Ann worked at Chucky Cheese and she has a wonderful work ethic. We look for people who can adapt to our style. We dare to be different. There are people with wonderful resumes who don't fit with the environment we have created.
AB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
WB: Have patience, slow down. People are moving too fast in this business. I'm 33 and I've been cooking since I was 16. I know it takes time.
AB: Who is the coolest chef you have worked with?
WB: Alex Strada. He has a great attitude.
AB: What goes into creating a new dish?
WB: Taste and flavor. I am driven by flavor. Being here in Southern California we have unbelievable resources. We are very fortunate. That is what inspires a dish—extracting but maintaining integrity and mastering simplicity.
AB: What are some of your favorite flavor combinations?
WB: I really like salty and earthy flavors. My palate has changed over the years. Now it's about balance and not having the same flavor profiles in all of my dishes. Some ionize, some high acid, some salty. Creating a balanced the menu so that each time you order a dish you get different flavor profiles.
AB: What is an ingredient do you feel is underutilized or underrated?
WB: Miso. It is a great way to flavor things and it is a great alternative to salt.
AB: What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do in your job?
WB: Let someone go. It is not easy. There are a lot of emotions in this business. You've worked so hard with them, but things come up.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
WB: My philosophy is refined simplicity.
AB: What has been your proudest accomplishment in your career?
WB: Receiving the Forbes Five Star Award.
AB: If you had one thing that you could do again or do differently in your career, what would it be?
WB: Travel more when I was younger, because I think traveling is such an inspiration in general.
AB: How are you involved in your local culinary community?
WB: I’m always involved in all different types of charity events, and I also do externships with culinary students from the local culinary school.
AB: If you weren't a chef what do you think you would be doing?
WB: I would like to be a designer for haute couture. Crafting cuisine is like crafting fine clothing: you look for the best materials and then it goes back to simplistic things. It’s elegant when something is simple, yet that is so difficult to do. A lot of people expect that you to be so creative as a chef putting things together, but I think the most creative minds are the simplest-thinking minds.
AB: You work very closely with Sommelier Jessie Rodriguez. How does that process work? How do the two of you collaborate?
WB: We sit down and really discuss the elements of taste. We’re trying to build upon flavors. Sometimes we’ll be discussing a creation in the sense of it being driven by my food or his wine. We collaborate very well because we both understand the elements of taste. I’m into using my sense of smell in my food and that’s a big thing in wine as well. I use my nose as my guide to my palate. I smell everything for a while before I eat it. Not in public, though!
AB: What's next for you? Where will we find you in five years?
WB: Doing what I love to do, cooking, and trying to please others through cooking.