SAN DIEGO — If you're into fine cuisine, then you probably already know about Addison, San Diego's first Michelin 3-star restaurant. But what you may not have known is that the chef behind it all was born and raised right here in San Diego County.
Addison just received its third Michelin star in December. It's now the only Michelin 3-star restaurant in all of Southern California.
"The cuisine has to be your own your own identity, your own style, your own signature," said Chef William Bradley. "There's a lot of pressure to reach the highest level, a lot of people are looking at what you're doing, how you're doing things,"
He's everything you would expect an elite chef to be: intense, precise and disciplined. But what may surprise you, is he's also funny.
"We age in dog years in the chef's world," he joked. "We don’t work eight-hour shifts, we work 13-14 hour shifts. Double trouble. Physically and mentally, [I'm] 92," he laughed.
His journey to the top began here in his hometown. He was born and raised in Chula Vista. He went to Hilltop High School.
"I am a Lancer, true and true," he said.
He's the son of a fire chief and a stay-at-home mom. The goals he initially aimed for weren't in the kitchen.
"I wanted to be a professional soccer player," said Chef Bradley. "It’s something I still follow closely and am extremely passionate about. I do not play, I do not have the time or the body to do that anymore," he laughed. "That was my ultimate goal. I think a lot of that mindset and determination to be an elite soccer player really trickled into being an elite chef."
Chef Bradley shared with me three courses from its nine course tasting menu.
WATCH: Extended interview with Addison Chef William Bradley:
Chef Bradley just celebrated his 17th year at Addison, which is located on the grounds of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
Despite opportunities to go elsewhere, he chose to stay in San Diego. "I always felt there was a big connection here for me in this restaurant," he said.
He said Addison's momentum kept trending upward. He wanted to put San Diego on the map as a world class destination.
He describes the moment Addison was awarded its 3rd Michelin star as an out-of-body experience.
"I’ve watched the video 100 times, it’s something I will never forget," he said. "You can’t describe it."
"It would be like winning an Academy Award or the World Cup, but the only thing that’s different about it is it’s not a lifetime achievement award. It’s something you have to earn back every single year."
He said the pressure doesn't scare him.
"You have to be extremely disciplined because it is not for everyone," he said. "To be able to achieve something like this, especially in my hometown, that’s really special."
Chef Bradley and his wife have two daughters.
"They’re nine and seven, they do not play soccer," he laughed. "I’ve tried, it didn’t succeed at all. It's probably the thing they collectively, including with their mom, tell me to turn off. They fear 'Soccer Saturday.'"
When he talks about his food it's as if he's describing art. He said fashion inspires him.
"The spring collection, the summer collection, its about staying ahead one season at a time," he said.
At one point, Chef Bradley reveals a surprise.
"I never went to culinary school, I'm self-taught. I chose the more European path. I found chefs I admired and worked for them," he said.
Chef Bradley offers this advice to anyone, in any field.
"If it’s something you’re obsessed with, enjoy the obsession, if it’s healthy. Be determined. Don’t ever let where you're at, where you came from distract you from reaching the top. No one would’ve ever thought a 3-star Michelin chef would’ve came from Chula Vista."
"I think that’s pretty cool. If I can do it, anyone can do it," he said.