Gluten-free café opens in Solana Beach

By Kristina Houck

There’s a new, all-in-one café, shop and cooking school in Solana Beach.

Co-founded by chefs Barbara McQuiston and Kai Peyrefitte, The Curious Fork opened mid-June in the Ocean Pointe complex just north of the Del Mar Racetrack at 512 Via de la Valle.

“It’s been an adventure getting this place opened up,” said Peyrefitte.

“We had to find the right home,” McQuiston added. “We were lucky to find this space and be able to make it our own.”

From 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with lunch starting at 10:30 a.m., The Curious Fork operates as a quick-service café, serving organic, gluten-free pastries, salads, soups, sandwiches, pizzas and more. The café is also the first in San Diego to serve the Bay Area’s Blue Bottle Coffee.

“We have one standard: If it does not match up to the best gluten product out there in the industry today, we don’t put it out,” Peyrefitte said. “Everything we do here, you can’t tell the difference between it and a product made with gluten.”

McQuiston, a Del Mar resident, grew up cooking with her mother and grandmother using fresh ingredients from the garden. She and her children were later diagnosed with celiac disease, a digestive and autoimmune disorder that can damage the lining of the small intestine. After switching to a gluten-free diet, her family’s health, along with her own, dramatically improved.

“We want to bring healthy, gluten-free cooking into people’s lives,” McQuiston said. “We want to educate people on how to live a wholesome life.”

For 30 years, McQuiston worked in aerospace and national defense, most recently as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. She worked closely with both the Bush and Obama administrations.

With a passion for culinary arts and healthy-living, McQuiston transitioned from her high-profile career and enrolled at the San Diego Culinary Institute.

“Working in defense and defense-related technology, I was doing a service to the country,” McQuiston said. “Now, I’m helping the world one person at a time. I call this my ‘second life.’”

While at SDCI, McQuiston met Peyrefitte, her teacher and also an accomplished chef who has been in the industry for more than 30 years, since he was 13 years old.

Sharing the same vision, the pair decided to open an all-in-one café, shop and cooking school to promote healthy living. In the evening, The Curious Fork will host a variety of cooking classes for all skill levels, as well as guest chef demos and special events.

“Cooking can be so simple,” said Peyrefitte, who graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 1993, and went on to work as the executive chef for Hilton Hotels, the executive chef for The San Diego Convention Center Corporation, and the food and beverage director for multiple country clubs. “It’s fun and it should be fun. It doesn’t need to be some big, technical mystery.”

McQuiston and Peyrefitte also brought Daryl Biggs, another SDCI graduate, to The Curious Fork. Biggs also transitioned to the food industry, having worked in finance for eight years. As product manager, he handpicks the products the shop sells.

The retail shop at The Curious Fork features products that promote healthy living and improve at-home cooking techniques. From EcoQue, an energy-efficient portable grill for $69.99, to ROK, a manual espresso maker for $199.99, the shop carries a variety of appliances, cookware and bakeware, artisan goods and specialty gifts, including do-it-yourself cheese kits and bottled balsamic vinegar made in-house.

“If we carry it, we stand behind it,” said Biggs, a Del Mar resident. “We stand behind everything we have.”

For more information about The Curious Fork, call 855-387-3675 or visit