Executive Sous Chef Jiomar Diaz, Seasoned by Experience
For 21 years, Jiomar Diaz worked his way up the ranks of the Vi at La Jolla Village kitchen. An artist at heart, his passions for cooking and creativity are the key ingredients that fuel every dish. Now the Executive Sous Chef, Diaz cites self-improvement and wanting to make residents happy as what has kept him motivated through the years.
Diverse Training Creates a Versatile Chef
A native San Diegan, Diaz was working as a prep cook for a retirement community in La Jolla when he was recruited to Vi at La Jolla Village by the Executive Chef. Over the next two decades, he worked his way from Lead Cook to Sous Chef to Executive Sous Chef.
Recently retired Executive Chef Jim Smith recalled how Diaz always went above and beyond his job duties, which made him the obvious choice for promotions. “Jiomar was always trying to do the job that was in front of him,” said Smith. “He took over ordering when it wasn’t his job. The same with handling scheduling, managing payroll, and planning the menus. So when new positions opened up, he already knew how to do them.”
Over the course of two decades, Diaz was trained by nine different chefs from diverse backgrounds, including French, Hispanic and American. “It was like going around the world for culinary training, except I learned it all right here,” said Diaz.
Diaz further refined his skills in cooking, presentation, culinary math, management and safety through company-sponsored training through the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). There,
Diaz achieved a dual certification from the CIA and the American Culinary Federation as a Pro Chef Level I Certified Culinary Professional. “Jiomar was always trying to learn and improve upon himself” said Smith. “Every week he would go online, read magazines and books looking for new foods and ideas. He goes back to the CIA every few years for more training, just to keep current.”
A Designer’s Eye for the Plate
The culinary field is not the only art Diaz has pursued. In 2005, he received a degree in Graphic Design from Southwestern College in Chula Vista. Diaz credits his knowledge of composition and color theory in elevating his food presentation. “Plating is an art. You have to look at the colors and shapes of food and know where to place them so that it looks beautiful. When you are plating, you need finesse.”
Executive Chef Smith watched Diaz’s plating skills evolve over the years. “He really developed when I put him in the fine dining restaurant. He learned to build the plate with all the elements, from colors and height to textures and taste.”
Every Meal is an Occasion
After devoting almost his entire career to the Vi at La Jolla Village community, many of the residents have become like family. Diaz takes great pride and satisfaction when a resident pulls him aside in the hallway to compliment his cooking. “Meals are an important part of our residents’ days. Whether it’s their nightly dinner or a holiday meal, I want them all to feel like special occasions.”
Knowing that residents are repeat customers, Diaz continually strives to keep the menus fresh and make their meals exceptional. “Our customers live here, so our food has to be good every day. I’m always thinking of how I can make things better, from the food quality to the menu selection.”
Vi at La Jolla Village’s Executive Director Stephanie Boudreau recognizes the dedication Diaz shows to his craft, and to the community. “Jiomar brings a positive, can-do attitude to every situation,” said Boudreau. “He always goes the extra mile which shows how much he cares for our residents.”
Creativity and Collaboration Continue
As to what’s next for Diaz, he is focused on ways he can grow the menu, and the staff. “We added sushi, and that was a big hit. Now I would like us to make a beer in-house. Vi has its own signature wine, so I would love for us to offer our own craft beer next!”
As he was once mentored by Executive Chef Smith in the Vi at La Jolla Village kitchen, Diaz is now in a place where he can return the favor. Because he performed so many of the kitchen positions, Diaz knows exactly what it takes to excel in the role, and therefore, whom to tap next. “He has developed a good eye for talent,” said Smith. “Whether watching their knife skills or recognizing ambition, he knows who will be ready for the next step.”
Right now, Diaz enjoys the daily exchanges he has with his two Sous Chefs, Andrew and Mario. “Andrew is new, so I’m training him little by little,” said Diaz, “and Mario works at an outside restaurant. So he brings in new ideas and teaches me as I teach him. The staff here are so incredible. I thank them all the time for their help because I can’t do this by myself.”