English (US)English (US)
Places to Visit
Things To Do
Road Trips
Local Tips
Visit Native California

Travel Videos
Travel Guides
Welcome Centers


Near me

California Questionnaire: Claudette Zepeda

California Questionnaire: Claudette Zepeda

The San Diego native and chef shares her Southern California favorites, from beaches to pastries

Growing up in the San Diego area, Claudette Zepeda spent a lot of time with her aunt who was a restaurateur in Tijuana. By the time she become a chef herself, Zepeda knew a lot about the diversity of cuisine in Mexico, and the culinary traditions that straddle the border. It made her a natural as the chef de cuisine at Javier Plascencia’s celebrated Bracero in San Diego’s Little Italy (which has since turned into a different restaurant). Today, she’s creative director and consulting chef at Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas, which includes the celebrated VAGA Restaurant & Bar. In 2019, Zepeda founded Vival La Vida, LLC, establishing micro businesses with single mothers throughout Mexico to import their heirloom produce previously unavailable in the U.S. We asked this very busy Southern Californian for some of her favorite spots in the Golden State, around San Diego and beyond.

Where do you live? Chula Vista.

Why there? It’s where we found a dream house with land—we felt so lucky to find it in California as it is challenging to find that kind of turf—and we bought our first house.

Who or what is your greatest California love? My kids! And the Pacific Ocean: I feel more myself when I am near any body of water.

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we are flighty or always carefree.

What is the stereotype that most holds true? You can’t shovel sunshine.

What is your favorite Golden State splurge? Driving to the snow in the winter and eating pie in Julian before ending the day eating an ice cream cone while walking on the sand in Coronado.

Time for a road trip—where are you going? I’d go north to Big Sur and camp on the beach with my kids. I’d make them get up early with me so I can get a coffee at Big Sur Bakery. During the day, we can hike and explore the cliffs, and get inspired by the ocean. There’s such happiness in cooking on the beach for meals, so we would have all we need at and around our little campsite.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? Well, I imagine a lot of people would say In-N-Out here, but I would have to say Stardust Doughnuts in Imperial Beach, which is a small beach town next to Coronado where I grew up. Their glorious cinnamon rolls are probably my favorite pastry.

How do you define California style? Light and deceivingly simple (sometimes the most simple-appearing things take the most amount of work). Function over fashion on all accounts. Where you can go into a restaurant with flip flops and sand in your hair and no one judges you.

Best California song? I have to say “California Love” by Tupac. I grew up in the ’90s and rap and hip-hop played a huge role in my adolescence. They don’t make them like Tupac anymore, but he was educated and calculated in delivering his bars. When he gives San Diego a shout out, it makes me cry to this day.


Traveler Photos

Tag #VISITCALIFORNIA on Instagram to have your trip featured on our page.

California Winery

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up and get weekly travel inspiration and ideas

Subscribe to our Newsletter