San Diego’s Addison awarded third Michelin star, joining the ranks of the most elite restaurants in the world

William Bradley, the chef and director at Addison, which on Monday became a Michelin three-star restaurant.
William Bradley, the chef and director at Addison, which on Monday became a Michelin three-star restaurant.
(Courtesy of Lauren di Matteo)

William Bradley’s California gastronomy-focused fine dining spot in Carmel Valley was the only San Diego County restaurant to receive either a new star or Bib Gourmand award in 2022

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Addison, chef and director William Bradley’s 16-year-old California gastronomy restaurant in San Diego’s Carmel Valley, earned its third Michelin star on Monday, Dec. 5, joining the rarified ranks of the most elite restaurants in the world.

At a Michelin Guide announcement ceremony Dec. 5 at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Bradley was the star of the evening because Addison is the first restaurant in the United States to receive a third Michelin star since 2019. Three stars is Michelin’s highest honor and it’s an achievement globally recognized as the highest standard of excellence.

“San Diego, we did it!” exclaimed Bradley from the stage Dec. 5, seconds after Addison was named the world’s newest Michelin three-star restaurant.

“I want to say thank you to the Michelin Guide ... it’s something I’ve followed since I was a small kid,” said Bradley, who was joined on stage by his team and his wife, Kyra.

Addison — which earned its first Michelin star in 2019 and its second last year — is one of only 14 Michelin three-star restaurants in the United States and one of seven in California, though that number will fall to six when Manresa in Los Gatos closes for good on Jan. 1. Addison is also the only Michelin three-star restaurant in Southern California. The rest are in the Bay area.

William Bradley, chef and director of Addison, celebrates on stage
William Bradley, chef and director of Addison, celebrates on stage after being awarded a third Michelin star by Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides.
(Pam Kragen / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, said in an interview Dec. 5 that Addison joins just 142 Michelin three-star restaurants worldwide.

“At this level, you’re in very supreme company ... the crème de la crème of world gastronomy,” Poullennec said.

Michelin Guide inspectors work anonymously and independently, never visiting the same restaurant twice in a year to ensure secrecy. Star awards are made by team decision, with the opinions of visiting inspectors from other regions of the world weighed equally to ensure a three-star restaurant in California is as consistent in quality as a three-star in France or Japan. The five criteria inspectors judge are quality of ingredients; mastery of culinary techniques; harmony of flavors; personality and emotion that the chef conveys in the dishes; and consistency throughout the entire menu and across different visits.

A chief inspector for Michelin North America, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Dec. 5 that Addison is a restaurant of an “astounding level globally” that inspectors, both from North America and abroad, have had their eye on since Southern California restaurants became eligible for recognition in 2019, with the publication of the first all-California Michelin Guide.

“The evolution of Addison was very impressive to us and quite a spectacle to behold,” the chief inspector said. “This year, the number of meals we had, and looking toward previous meals, they all consistently showed us there was a degree of excellence here that definitely warranted placing it among the global three stars.”

In a review of Addison for the 2022 California Michelin Guide, inspectors wrote: “Chef William Bradley has helmed the stoves at Addison since 2006, transforming this Southern Californian oasis into a world-class dining destination. Global inspiration and Californian sentimentality are at the heart of his approach, and no dish captures this better than sesame-seasoned Koshihikari rice finished with applewood-smoked sabayon and crowned with Regiis Ova reserve caviar. From chicken liver churros to a riff on chips and dip, dishes are playful yet polished. Opening bites such as Kumamoto oysters with pickled green strawberry or Iberian ham folded over a gloriously golden potato display finely tuned flavors. Shellfish-studded chawanmushi exemplifies masterful control over technique, flavors and textures. Meals conclude with a selection of stunning small bites.”

Caviar, smoked sabayon sauce and Koshihikari rice at Addison restaurant
Caviar, smoked sabayon sauce and Koshihikari rice, a dish on the fall tasting menu at Addison restaurant.
(Courtesy of Eric Wolfinger)

Addison’s award was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing year for San Diego County chefs who were hoping to earn Michelin recognition. No other local restaurants received new stars this year or a Bib Gourmand honor, which recognizes eateries that serve “great food at great value.” Two San Diego County restaurants, Valle in Oceanside and Kingfisher in San Diego’s Golden Hill neighborhood, were honored last month as new “recommended” restaurants in the 2022 California Guide. Three restaurants in San Diego that earned their first Michelin stars last year — Jeune et Jolie in Carlsbad and Soichi Sushi and Sushi Tadokoro, both in San Diego — learned Monday that they have retained their stars for 2022.

Jeune et Jolie eowner John Resnick said retaining a star is a point of pride for him and executive chef Eric Bost.

“One of the beautiful things about Michelin, is that each year you are judged on the merits of what you have created over the course of that year. Past is not prologue. So this is a testament to the passion of our team, their pursuit of excellence and desire to create something special,” Resnick said. “For some of the people here at Jeune, this is their first time earning a Michelin Star. And for the longstanding members of our team, this recognition is a reflection of their enduring drive and continued commitment to the experience of each and every guest that we have the pleasure to serve, each and every night. We are thrilled to once again earn this distinction from Michelin, and I couldn’t be more proud of the amazing people who made it happen.”

Bradley’s rise to national recognition was catapulted in 2014, when his mentor and friend, two-time Michelin three-star chef Thomas Keller, handpicked Bradley to compete for the title of “The World’s Next Super-Chef” against contestants selected by Michelin-starred chefs Nancy Silverton, Daniel Boulud, Masaharu Morimoto and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Bradley won that competition, and he has continued racking up national and international accolades ever since.

After Addison earned its first Michelin star three years ago, Bradley decided to take the restaurant in a new culinary direction he calls California gastronomy. For its first 13 years, Addison was a contemporary French restaurant, which reflected Bradley’s classical training and cooking experience. But in 2020, he told the Union-Tribune that he was gradually transitioning to a new style of cuisine featuring lighter dishes made with California ingredients that spotlight regional cuisine.

“Why not cook more Californian if I am from California?” said Bradley, 47, who grew up in Chula Vista and lives in Carmel Valley with his family. “That’s the beauty of living where we’re at. It’s really helping us in creating our own voice. I’m always working hard to be different, and I feel now that at my age I’m moving to embrace the California gastronomy. I feel very confident at this time. It’s an evolution of me as a cook.”

This year, Chef/Director William Bradley’s menus have gradually moved away from heavier, French-focused cuisine

Michelin Guide did not award any stars in the U.S. in 2020 because of the pandemic. But when the awards returned last year, Michelin inspectors showed their appreciation for Bradley’s culinary evolution with a second star.

It’s been three years since any U.S. restaurant has earned a third star. Atelier Crenn in San Francisco received its third star in the 2019 San Francisco Guide, and the Inn at Little Washington received its third star in the 2019 Washington, D.C., guide. The 14 Michelin three-star restaurants in the U.S. are seven restaurants in California (Addison, Atelier Crenn, Benu, the French Laundry, Quince, SingleThread and Manresa), one in Chicago (Alinea), one in Washington, D.C. (Inn at Little Washington), and five in New York (Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, Masa and Le Bernardin).

So what will earning a third Michelin star mean for Addison?

Experts say that designation makes a restaurant a must-visit destination for international gourmands. The wait for reservations will grow (as of Monday morning, Addison was booked out through mid-January). The cost of a prix-fixe meal at Addison is also likely to rise, as Bradley expands his staff to accommodate demand. On Monday, a nine-course tasting menu at Addison was priced at $298. The average price for a meal at a Michelin three-star restaurant worldwide is $357, according to a 2021 survey by the international food magazine Chef’s Pencil.

In 2017, Food & Wine Magazine interviewed chefs on how their fortunes changed following the award of their third star. Joël Robuchon, who at the time held more Michelin stars than any chef in the world, told the magazine the first and second stars bring in more customers, but a third star pushes business to the next level of being “always full.”

“With one Michelin star, you get about 20 percent more business. Two stars, you do about 40 percent more business, and with three stars, you’ll do about 100 percent more business. So from a business point ... you can see the influence of the Michelin guide,” said Robuchon, who passed away in 2018.

Kanpachi sashimi at Addison restaurant in San Diego.
(Courtesy of Eric Wolfinger)

Although getting three stars is next to impossible, maintaining them can be a tightrope walk over fire. Over the years, a handful of three-star chefs have voluntarily given up their stars or closed their restaurants for reimagining because of the emotional stress and dread of losing a star and the self-induced pressure to constantly improve and innovate.

In 2018, Saison restaurant in San Francisco earned its third star but dropped down to two a year later when its chef-owner left. Coi restaurant in San Francisco earned its third star in 2017 but lost it two years later and closed permanently during the pandemic. And Manresa in Los Gatos, which earned its third star in 2015, will close at the end of this year because chef-owner David Kinch said he’d like to focus his time on running more casual restaurants, which will give him a better work-life balance. (Another California three-star that disappeared from the rankings in 2020 is the Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley, which was burned to the ground by wildfire in 2020 and has yet to reopen.)

Half of America’s Michelin three-star restaurants are in California, which Poullennec calls a “culinary powerhouse with a unique identity and strong voice” driven by the high quality of the state’s exceptional produce, seafood and other ingredients. And now that Southern California restaurants are getting the same attention from inspectors as Bay area restaurants have for years, Poullennec and the chief inspector said that Addison could soon have some regional company at the three-star level.

“As we start with the next (guide), we’ll look everywhere we can. Southern California is a promising gastronomical destination, and we’ll most definitely have our eyes on it,” the chief inspector said.

Also on Monday, Michelin Guide announced 17 California restaurants that received their first star, and two that received green stars for their sustainability efforts. They are: 715 in Los Angeles; Camphor in L..A.; Caruso’s in Montecito (which also earned a green star); Citrin in Santa Monica; Cyrus in Geyserville; Gwen in L.A.; Hatchet Hall in L.A.; Kato in L.A.; Localis in Sacramento; Manzke in L.A.; Nisei in San Francisco; Osito in San Francisco; Press in St. Helena; The Restaurant at Justin in Paso Robles (which also earned a green star); San Ho Won in San Francisco; Ssal in San Francisco; and Sushi Kaneyoshi in L.A. Last week, Michelin also announced 15 Bib Gourmand awardees. None of them is in San Diego County.

For more Michelin news, visit guide.michelin.com/us/en.

Addison restaurant in Carmel Valley.
(Courtesy photo)


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