Executive Chef and Partner of Clique Hospitality’s Premier San Diego Restaurants: Lionfish and Serẽa
A San Diego native, Jose “JoJo” Ruiz is leading the restaurant scene as Executive Chef of both Lionfish at Pendry San Diego and Serẽa, located at the historic Hotel del Coronado. Chef Ruiz earned the prestigious accolade of James Beard Certified Smart Catch Leader due to his commitment to sustainable seafood practices in early 2019, and has been awarded the title again for 2020. Lionfish and Serẽa are the only restaurants in San Diego and Coronado to have been awarded this recognition.
In partnership with Andy Masi of Clique Hospitality, Chef JoJo Ruiz opened Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine at Pendry San Diego in February 2017. At Lionfish, Chef Ruiz showcases a seasonal San Diego-inspired menu serving fresh sustainable seafood and modern coastal cuisine at the bustling Fifth Avenue location seven days a week. As a technique-driven eatery, chef Ruiz sets Lionfish apart from other restaurants in the city, showcasing his careful precision that elevates each dish for the diner, offered in an inviting restaurant environment.
In 2019, Ruiz and Andy Masi continued their partnership with the opening of Serẽa, a sea-to-table coastal cuisine dining experience offering an expertly curated menu of sustainable seafood, meats and other signature selections with a Mediterranean flair. The beautifully designed airy restaurant offers indoor and outdoor al fresco dining with oceanfront views.
Being an influential part of the San Diego community with locally-driven restaurants, Chef Ruiz is committed to supporting Lionfish and Serea with ocean-friendly sustainable practices. From front-of-house to back-of-house, JoJo ensures that his restaurants implement proper recycling practices throughout its entirety, with the aim to proactively help significantly reduce the harmful impact on San Diego’s ocean and beaches by reducing disposable waste. Under Ruiz’ leadership, his restaurants are in full support of the protection of the oceans, beaches and community for generations to come.
Additionally, Chef Ruiz only uses eco-friendly supplies in his restaurants; from biodegradable paper straws to compostable and biodegradable take-out containers and silverware. His dedication to this cause has allowed him to make Lionfish and Serea nationally certified as “Ocean Friendly” by the Surfrider Foundation . JoJo attributes his learning of sustainable practices to Patrick “Paddy” Glennon, founder of the Culinary Liberation (CLF), which brings together a group of chefs to join forces within their respective communities to promote environmental initiatives in the restaurant industry and promote nutritional education.
Chef JoJo is also passionate about being in the forefront of the fight against hunger in San Diego with his involvement in the organization Waste Not San Diego , which gives chefs the opportunity to donate excess food that is then redistributed to local nonprofits. Throughout his career, Chef JoJo has strived to push culinary standards to new heights.
For JoJo, this begins with his team. His approach to leadership is collective – “the stronger the team, the better.” Freedom and a sense of collaboration is instrumental for JoJo when in the kitchen, and he shares a constant willingness to pass on his knowledge through mentoring and training his team to reach their path and individual goals.
As a San Diego native, JoJo enjoys using only local ingredients and produce available fresh at the farmer’s market. His dishes are infused with the essence of San Diego’s personality and always exemplify his strong commitment to sustainable seafood practices and elevating the local fishing and farming communities through choosing the freshest, locally sourced seafood, meats and produce to be used in his culinary creations. Chef JoJo understands seasonality, cooking trends and that the real key is to let the natural beauty and intricate flavor of fresh, sustainable seafood stand out on its own without the need to be over the top or pretentious.
Outside of the kitchen, Ruiz rounds out his lifestyle by partaking in yoga five days a week, spending time working on hot rods and muscle cars, and dedicating time to his family, inclusive of his toddler.
Chef Jose “JoJo” Ruiz Recognized by James Beard Foundation as a Smart Catch Leader for Lionfish and Newly-Opened Serẽa
Chef Ruiz’s Seafood Program and Commitment to
Sustainable Seafood at Gaslamp’s Lionfish and
Earns Him Smart Catch Seal
Chef Jose “JoJo” Ruiz has again been recognized as a James Beard Foundation Smart Catch Leader, this time for the newly-opened Serẽa, making it the only restaurant on Coronado Island to receive this recognition.
Chef Ruiz was also recognized by the prestigious culinary foundation for the second time as a Smart Catch Leader for Lionfish, making both restaurants the only two in San Diego to receive the recognition.
Serẽa, located at the historic Hotel del Coronado, and the Gaslamp District’s Lionfish — both of which are helmed by Partner/Chef Ruiz — were recognized due to their commitment to sustainable seafood and menu diversity.
Fewer than 20 of California’s estimated 76,000 restaurants are recognized by Smart Catch. “We were committed to sustainable sourcing when we opened both Lionfish and Serẽa, not for the accolades, but because it was right,” Chef Ruiz said. “I grew up in San Diego. The ocean is a part of who I am. There was never a question that my menus wouldn’t be focused on sustainability. To be recognized twice as a Smart Catch Leader is humbling, but to able to do my part to make sure future generations have sustainable food sources is even better.”
In order to be recognized by James Beard Foundation, restaurant menus must meet or exceed 80 percent sustainability, and restaurants must submit to three assessments per year. Further, “red” items , or seafood that is overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life, can only appear twice on menus and must total 8 percent volume or less.
As one of the country’s most prominent culinary institutions, the James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch is a program created by chefs for chefs with the purpose of increasing the sustainability of the seafood supply chain. Serẽa and Lionfish are two of three restaurants in the San Diego area to have earned this Smart Catch Leader recognition.
Opened in February 2017 from Clique Hospitality, Lionfish quickly became one of the leading restaurant innovators in San Diego. At Lionfish, Chef Ruiz showcases his talent in sushi, seafood and coastal cuisine at the bustling Fifth Avenue hotspot at Pendry San Diego. As a technique-driven eatery, Lionfish sets itself apart from other restaurants in the city, showcasing careful precision that elevates each dish for the diner. Chef Ruiz prides himself with a seasonal San Diego-inspired menu of modern coastal cuisine serving fresh sustainable seafood.
Serēa, opened in summer 2019, takes its inspiration from the sea, serving sustainable dishes while diners overlook the scenic Pacific Ocean. While breathing in fresh sea air, diners partake in Chef Ruiz’s fresh-catch cooking done in a simple, elegant manner for the ultimate sea-to-table experience. The approachable cuisine prepared by Chef Ruiz and his team features seasonal ingredients grown by Southern California farmers, ensuring top quality. Serẽa’s ocean-friendly menu is robust with fresh seafood and a raw bar.
For more information about Lionfish, Serẽa and the James Beard Smart Catch program, please visit: https://lionfishsd.com, http://sereasandiego.comand https://www.jamesbeard.org/smart-catch.
About the James Beard Foundation
For more than 30 years, the James Beard Foundation has championed chefs and other culinary professionals while highlighting the centrality of food culture in our daily lives. Through the James Beard Awards, unique dining experiences at the James Beard House and around the country, scholarships, hands-on learning, and a variety of industry programs that educate and empower leaders in our community, the Foundation has built a platform for chefs and asserted the power of gastronomy to drive behavior, culture, and policy change around food. To that end the Foundation has also created signature impact-oriented initiatives that include our Women’s Leadership Programs aimed at addressing the gender imbalance in the culinary industry; advocacy training through our Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change; and the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards that shine a spotlight on successful change makers. The organization is committed to giving chefs and their colleagues a voice and the tools they need to make the world more sustainable, equitable, and delicious for everyone.
Opened in 2017, Lionfish is as social as the bustling neighborhood that surrounds it. Located in the Pendry San Diego in the city’s trendy Gaslamp Quarter sits Lionfish, the dynamic, design-driven hotspot on 5th Avenue that honors the essence of the city’s lifestyle. The restaurant offers modern coastal cuisine that features fresh-catch cooking and seasonal ingredients, all prepared with innovative twists. The menu, featuring both sustainable seafood and prime meats, toys with guest’s tastebuds with its casual, yet complex offerings. The light, fresh appetizers are perfect for sharing. A private dining area is available for a more intimate experience. A lively, yet elegant environment within the two-level space, Lionfish is not only a culinary destination, but it’s also a home for hand-crafted cocktails, all of which are carefully prepared by high-end mixologists in the restaurant’s rambunctious bar.
Serẽa, opened in summer 2019, is a sea-to-table concept by Clique Hospitality created for Hotel del Coronado . This unique collaboration between the ever-evolving seaside resort and the trend-setting hospitality company brings an innovative sea-to-table experience to The Del that sets a new tone for the iconic property. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the soothing rhythm of the crashing waves, the indoor-outdoor restaurant features elegant, fresh-catch coastal cuisine with a hint of Mediterranean flair. Recognized by James Beard Foundation as a Smart Catch Leader for his efforts in sustainable seafood, Executive Chef JoJo Ruiz has created a menu of thoughtfully crafted seafood dishes, featuring the highest quality seasonal, responsibly raised and sourced ingredients from the region’s oceans, farms and fields—from the California Coast down to the Baja Peninsula. Serẽa also features a lively outdoor bar that offers hand-crafted cocktails, local brews and a comprehensive wine list.