Baja California chef and restaurateur Roberto Alcocer always hoped to one day open a restaurant outside of his native Mexico, but his priority of putting his wife and children first always outweighed his business ambitions.
Then, over a two-week period in 2018, two things happened that triggered the chain of events that led to the opening of his Valle restaurant at the Mission Pacific Resort in Oceanside.
The 155-seat oceanfront restaurant will serve a prix fixe menu, a $ 95 four-course tasting menu of modern Mexican cuisine that Alcocer has perfected over the past eight years at his acclaimed Malva restaurant in the Valley. of Guadalupe de Baja California.
Three years ago, a Colorado restaurant industry consultant dined at Malva and asked the chef, now 37, if he would like to create a menu for a future restaurant project in San Diego.
A couple of weeks later, Alcocer’s 2-year-old son was diagnosed with autism. Since Mexico does not have the advanced therapies and educational programs that San Diego could offer his family, and since Alcocer’s son is a US citizen, he began to think big.
What if, instead of selling some of his Malva recipes to a San Diego gastronomic entrepreneur, he offered his own services as a full-time chef so he could move his family north of the border and help his son?
When the Colorado consultancy Two Roads Hospitality was acquired by Hyatt Hotels a few months later, Alcocer’s restaurant project joined the project. Valle became the new signature restaurant at Mission Pacific Resort, a 161-room luxury boutique hotel that the JdV by Hyatt division opened at the foot of the Oceanside Pier on May 25.
When the one-story restaurant was built earlier this year, Alcocer insisted that its front door face Pacific Street and not the center of the U-shaped hotel. This is because he wants Valle to become a destination. not just for hotel guests, but also for local residents looking to get a taste of New Mexico, as well as culinary tourists from Los Angeles and Orange counties who can catch the train down. The restaurant is a 5 minute walk from the Oceanside Transit Center.
There’s another reason Alcocer moved with his wife, 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son to Carlsbad earlier this year.
Restaurants in Mexico won’t be eligible for Michelin stars until 2023, but California’s first Michelin Guide arrived in 2019. Alcocer has its sights set on at least one Michelin star for Valle.
“Michelin has been in my head from day one,” he said, in an interview earlier this week. “I started my career as a cook 20 years ago as an apprentice in a Michelin-starred restaurant in France. If I left my stability and moved to another country, I’m going to play for all the marbles ”.
Born in Mexico City and raised in Ensenada, Alcocer discovered his passion for food as a child who would eat at haute cuisine restaurants with his paternal grandfather and gorged on buffets with his maternal grandmother.
After high school, Alcocer asked his parents if he could take a year off before going to university and moved to France, where he apprenticed for a year at an award-winning restaurant in the Bordeaux region.
His father, a racing car mechanic, was not a supporter of Alcocer’s plan to become a chef until his son cooked for him. Then he was proud.
After attending the culinary school of Puebla (Mexico), Alcocer moved to Spain, where he worked at La Broche, Madrid, with a Michelin star, and later at the Pujol in Mexico City, which ranks number 9 in the list of the 50 best restaurants in the world.
Alcocer also worked for a time as corporate chef for Sempra Energy’s Casa Azul, near Ensenada. Finally, in 2014, he opened his own restaurant, Malva Cocina de Baja California in the Valley.
Alcocer said diners visiting Valle in Oceanside will see some of the dishes that made Malva famous among the Baja foodie community, including her aguachile dish, her bone marrow crème brûlée and her stuffed eggplant dish. But most of the dishes will be new and changing seasonally, with one or two new dishes every two weeks, and a festive menu arriving at the end of November.
Alcocer said Hyatt officials have worked with him to recreate the style of doing business that is practiced in the Valle de Guadalupe.
They have given him the freedom to order black cod from suppliers in Ensenada, import wines from Valle de Guadalupe, and do much of the food preparation in-house – baking bread, fermenting vegetables, and making his own ice cream – instead of making orders to large corporate suppliers.
He was also able to take his staff from the Valle a Malva restaurant to get an authentic idea of the environment they are recreating in Oceanside.
Alcocer has also decorated the restaurant with artisanal products from Baja California, such as a hammered copper bar from the old restaurant Corazón de Tierra del Valle, works of art by the Einer and Jamex de la Torre brothers and a flagstone floor, originally from the valley. The succulent landscape of the 50-seat patio is also a tribute to the Finca La Carrodilla del Valle wine house.
Valle becomes the third fine-dining Mexican restaurant to open in San Diego County since Baja California chef Javier Plascencia opened Bracero Cocina de Raiz in Little Italy in 2015. It closed and rebranded in 2017. Local chef Claudette Zepeda opened El Jardín at Liberty Station in 2018, but it also lasted just a year before closing and rebranding.
Although some critics have claimed that Sandieguinos are unwilling to support high-end Mexican food in the land of 99-cent fish tacos, Alcocer doesn’t buy that argument. He blames high rent prices, association problems and other reasons for the closure of Bracero and El Jardín.
Alcocer said Valle does not have to pay rent to Hyatt for the space in Oceanside, which will give it time to build a clientele that is interested in a style of dining and cooking that is not offered in San Diego County at this time. . You are confident that you will succeed and are willing to put in the work necessary to achieve it.
“I want a Michelin star. I am not playing games and I want to do things well. I’ll sleep in the restaurant to get it, ”he said.
Schedule: 4 to 9 pm from Wednesday to Sunday
Where: 222 N. Pacific St., Oceanside
Telephone: (866) 723-8906