Claudette Zepeda

Claudette Zepeda, Chef, VAGA, San Diego, California


Claudette Zepeda is a San Diego-based chef known for her fearless culinary style and bold approach to regional Mexican cuisine. In her role as Chef of VAGA located in San Diego’s North County, Zepeda oversees the culinary program at VAGA, where Zepeda authors a love letter to her hometown with a menu that celebrates local flavors and influences. Most recently, Zepeda garnered national acclaim for her time as the executive chef & partner behind El Jardín, a regional Mexican restaurant in the area. During her tenure, El Jardín received a glowing review from the New York Times, inclusion on Esquire’s 2018 Best New Restaurants, and recognition from Michelin on their 2019 Bib Gourmand list. Zepeda was named both Eater San Diego and San Diego Union Tribune’s Chef of the Year in 2018, and was a James Beard Best Chef West semifinalist in 2019. In 2019 Zepeda Founded Viva La Vida, LLC., establishing micro businesses throughout Mexico’s seven regions with single mothers to import their heirloom ingredients that were not available in the U.S., all the while, helping the women in Mexico move their family ahead without having them sacrifice their safety. Earning its name from a famous Frida Kahlo quote, the company celebrates the colorful life and death Mexicans lead, with plans to grow into a multi unit concept focused on helping women break from generational poverty. Prior to El Jardín, Zepeda was chef de cuisine at Javier Plascencia’s celebrated Bracero, and competed on Top Chef Season 15 and Top Chef Mexico.