Juniper & Ivy chef Anthony Wells shocked and humbled as a 2022 James Beard Award semifinalist

Anthony Wells, the chief chef at Juniper & Ivy restaurant in Little Italy, has been named a semifinalist for “Finest Chef: West” within the 2022 James Beard Awards.

After a two-year, pandemic-related break, the James Beard Basis introduced the return of its awards with Wednesday morning’s launch of its 2022 record of nominated cooks, restaurateurs, bakers and bar managers. The Beards are just like the Oscars of the American culinary business, and Wednesday’s record might be narrowed to finalists on March 16, with winners introduced June 13 in Chicago.

Among the many a whole lot of semifinalists on this 12 months’s record, Wells is the one San Diego County honoree.

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In a telephone name Wednesday morning, Wells stated he was shocked to obtain the information, gratified to get the popularity and wanting to share the glory with the remainder of the workforce on the 200-seat restaurant, which is able to mark its eighth anniversary Tuesday.

“There’s one individual’s title on it, however a lot goes right into a restaurant like Juniper & Ivy to maintain the success we’ve had,” Wells, 35, stated. “I’m simply excited for all of them. We haven’t actually had the highlight on us for some time in San Diego.”

Based on March 2, 2014, Juniper & Ivy is a high-volume restaurant that makes a speciality of serving dishes made nearly completely with West Coast components on a menu that’s continuously evolving. Wells’ infinite creativity within the kitchen helped the restaurant rating a Michelin Bib Gourmand honor in 2019. Wells was on the restaurant’s founding workforce, serving as sous chef below founding government chef Richard Blais. He later moved as much as chef de delicacies and at last assumed the highest chef job in 2017 when Blais moved on.

Final spring, Wells introduced that he could be leaving Juniper & Ivy on March 2, 2022, which marks the fifth anniversary of his appointment as government chef. However the brand new chef employed final summer season to exchange Wells didn’t work out, so Wells agreed to remain on indefinitely, laying aside his dream of opening his personal San Diego restaurant.

Juniper & Ivy government chef Anthony Wells sears a steak on the Little Italy restaurant.

(Bhadri Kubendran)

“I do assume I’ve an final purpose of opening up my very own place in the future. However I’m nonetheless extremely younger on this business and clearly there was one thing on the market that instructed me I wasn’t fairly able to make the subsequent leap and I got here again to the place I began my government chef profession. Within the meantime, I’m specializing in making this place one of the best place potential and giving all my consideration to the workers.”

Now, Wells — who lives in Lakeside together with his spouse, Nicole — stated he’s bought his eyes on a brand new prize: being there to assist Juniper & Ivy have fun its tenth anniversary in 2024.

“We’ve got two years to go and that 10 is far more necessary than the eight. I’m an enormous sports activities fan, and once you attain the magical 10-year mark, you’re within the corridor of fame. You’ve cemented your time and legacy.”

Juniper & Ivy is owned by Mike Rosen, who runs a capital administration agency in La Jolla and is an avowed restaurant-lover. Rosen stated final 12 months that when Wells is able to open his personal restaurant, he want to be a serious investor.

“Chef Anthony Wells is a particular human being with unbridled ardour,” Rosen stated in an electronic mail on Wednesday. “Maybe the well-known quote ‘be it ever so humble, there isn’t a place like dwelling’ resonates finest, as for the previous eight years, Juniper has been Anthony’s dwelling. Whereas Anthony is a quiet chief, one ought to by no means confuse his tender voice for acquiescence the least bit.

“Anthony leads by instance and is broadly revered and admired by the San Diego culinary group. It’s actually time to acknowledge chef Wells for his private efforts and for main an impressive workforce that has made Juniper & Ivy an ordinary bearer within the San Diego restaurant scene.”

The interior of Juniper & Ivy restaurant in Little Italy.

The inside of Juniper & Ivy restaurant in Little Italy.

(James Tran)

Wells grew up a multisport athlete in small-town West Virginia. His father labored in a metal mill, his mother was in gross sales for Philip Morris. He earned an instructional scholarship to a school within the subsequent city over, however he had a stressed spirit. After one semester, he dropped out, then shocked his household by saying he’d taken out a mortgage to attend the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

By way of a faculty internship, Wells spent 5 winters studying traditional French methods from Chef John Farnsworth at a rustic membership in Vero Seashore, Fla. Then at 24, he interned at a bistro in Nantucket, the place he realized to experiment and collaborate. After that, he felt prepared for New York, the place he spent a 12 months at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, then two years because the opening butcher at Jonathan Benno’s Lincoln Ristorante.

However then he bought a name from dwelling that his beloved grandmother, who’d been battling breast most cancers for years, was dying. He rushed again to West Virginia to nurse her after which grieve for her and over the subsequent few months realized he didn’t wish to return to New York. About that point, Blais received “High Chef All-Stars” and was getting ready to open a fine-dining restaurant in Atlanta. Wells had by no means met the star chef, however thought they’d get alongside, so he took an opportunity and despatched Blais an electronic mail asking for a job.

Wells spent one 12 months at Blais’s Atlanta restaurant, The Spence, then moved to Napa Valley together with his then-girlfriend Nicole, the place he cooked his manner round city for a 12 months earlier than Blais invited Wells to hitch him in San Diego at Juniper & Ivy.

The James Beard Awards are returning after a two-year, pandemic-related absence. Throughout that point, the New York group underwent an audit to make its awards extra inclusive. Again in 2017, the James Beard Basis was closely criticized for not doing sufficient to discourage the problem of sexual harassment within the culinary business. It was additionally criticized for its nominations in previous years going predominately to White males, however by 2019 the nominees record was significantly extra numerous.

For the total record of 2022 James Beard Award semifinalists, go to jamesbeard.org/weblog/the-2022-james-beard-award-semfinalists.

Juniper & Ivy owner Mike Rosen, left, with the executive chef Anthony Wells.

Juniper & Ivy proprietor Mike Rosen, left, with the restaurant’s now James Beard-nominated government chef Anthony Wells.

(James Tran)