After years of rumors, one of the top chefs in Mexico has officially signed on to open his first restaurant in San Diego. Drew Deckman, who earned a Michelin star during his time cooking in Europe 11, is taking over Hoxton Manor in North Park. He’ll renovate the whole place, build a Mexican-spirits bar at the semi-secret-cozy rooftop patio, and reopen as Watershed by Drew Deckman next February.
“We’ve been trying for eight years,” Deckman says. “We have had three spots lined up, and every time we got close, a skeleton popped out of the closet and it was a deal breaker. But we continued to be diligent.”
Deckman’s a woodfired master and a real-deal, no-BS advocate for local, sustainable, regenerative, “slow” food culture. That’s part of what makes Deckman’s en El Mogor—his Valle de Guadalupe “restaurant” (he cooks outdoors over fire under some epic pine trees surrounded by grapevines, wearing goggles for the smoke and brandishing tongs)—a star of Baja’s wine region.
Early in his career, Deckman studied under French greats Paul Bocuse, Jacques Maximin, and Madeleine Kamman. He earned his Michelin star in Reinsdorf, Germany, before relocating to Mexico and falling in love with the campestres (roadside pop-up restaurants) of the Valle.
Watershed will include an open kitchen with a chef’s counter boasting 12 seats, a raw bar, tasting menus, regionally sourced wines, some jazz, and a rooftop, Mexican spirit-oriented bar.
The name Watershed derives from the realization that Tijuana and San Diego are a fluid, communal food culture centered around the mega-region’s seafood and natural resources. “We share the same watershed, we share the same air, and the same ocean,” Deckman says. “I wouldn’t say we’re doing Mexican. It’s a celebration of San Diego County and Southern California.”
The menu will be driven by a half dozen or so a la carte plates, with larger items for sharing, like a whole fish or a ribeye. It’ll have options to eat family-style, grab a drink and a few quick bites, or dig in for a full tasting menu experience. “I don’t want the menu to be strictly a tasting menu,” says Deckman. “We don’t want to alienate people.”
In his Baja restaurant, Deckman sources most of his ingredients—seafood, quail, produce, wine, even salt—from as-local-as-possible, sustainable sources, which often means down the road. That ethos will keep on with Watershed. He’s tapped a buddy in East County to do some custom farming, giving the chef exclusive access to herbs and seasonal veggies he’d otherwise be sourcing from specialty markets.
Wines will be no further north than Santa Barbara and no further south than Baja. Watershed will be free of bottled water, single-use plastics, and individually packaged soft drinks. “You can recycle the glass and plastic, but they still have to be made and transported, and there’s the energy needed to recycle,” he explains. “All of our efforts are focused on minimizing our carbon footprint.”
Watershed is still in the midst of the design and remodel phase, but Deckman has a clear vision for the kind of space he’s hoping to curate. He’s upcycling shells, banking on the heavy use of white bone colors, warm wood tones, and hay bales covered in adobe—elements you’ll recognize in his Valle property.
“At Watershed, you won’t have to come to the Valle, the Valle is going to come to you,” he says.
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