SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — In the heart of Golden Hill, is a new restaurant called Kingfisher.
On a late morning in early May, head chef Jonathan Bautista is busy preparing a massive halibut.
Fresh fish is a staple at the Vietnamese restaurant
"We came up with the concept French -Vietnamese under a San Diego lens cause I cook San Diego food," said Bautista.
Although Bautista has worked at several other notable San Diego area restaurants, Kingfisher is his first venture from the ground up.
"It's different than what anybody else is doing right now and it's rooted and it's real," said Bautista.
Bautista moved to San Diego when he was 14, and says he didn't discover his passion for cooking until a bit later when he quit college to enroll in culinary school.
It was a move his Filipino parents, a nurse and an engineer didn't understand or support at first.
But when they saw him in his element things changed.
"They came in to eat and they're like, ok I understand why he loves it so much, I understand why he's never home, I understand why he's so dedicated to this craft," Bautista explained.
And he says he keeps learning; discovering so much about Vietnamese cuisine while preparing the menu for Kingfisher and striving to marry tradition with a San Diego influence.
"The traditional Vietnamese people, it reminds them of their childhood and they tell me that and there's other people that have been to Vietnam and it reminds them of their trip to Vietnam."
Bautista says he hopes people walk away from the restaurant with a better appreciation for Vietnamese food and hopes his creativity, attention to detail and desire to make guests feel welcome comes through in all he does.
"What I think about every day is just do a great job, excellent job, strive for greatness every single day and if that inspires people that's amazing."