Escondido chef opens dream restaurant
Chef Jesse Paul’s The Wooden Spoon will bring seasonal, artisinal fare to east Escondido
By Pam Kragen
For 18 years, Escondido resident Jesse Paul has been cooking his way around some of North County’s top fine dining restaurants. But this month, he’ll fulfill his lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant that will serve what he calls “comfort food redefined.”
On Tuesday, Paul will open the doors to The Wooden Spoon, a family-friendly 60-seat artisan restaurant in a refurbished Mexican fast food outlet at East Valley Parkway and North Elm Street in Escondido. The restaurant’s diverse menu will change daily, but sample dishes include house-made pork rinds and kimchi, burgers, crispy-fried sweetbreads, meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, blackberry-glazed pork loin and roasted vegetable tart. And everything will be priced at $20 or less.
“My philosophy is to keep it simple, use good products, source locally and keep it in season so you can extract the most flavor from every ingredient,” said Paul, who moved to Escondido last year with his wife, Catherine, an elementary schoolteacher, and their children Jack, 13, and Mia, 10.
East Valley Parkway isn’t exactly a mecca for fine dining. Most of the area’s restaurants serve fast food or takeout. But Paul said he’s been overwhelmed with interest from local office and hospital workers, residents of the nearby Old Escondido Historic District and commuters who travel the busy east-west corridor.
“I think people are hungry for something different out here,” he said, crediting friend and French master chef Patrick Ponsaty, whose menu at Bellamy’s Restaurant in downtown Escondido has helped boost the city’s culinary credentials in recent years.