Jason Knibb has spent more than a decade as Executive Chef at NINE-TEN Restaurant. With so many other chefs racing from kitchen to kitchen, he is an anomaly, crediting the longevity of his position to a combination of “working with good people and being allowed the creative freedom to lead the ship”.
Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Jason came to the United States when he was nine years old and grew up in the Los Angeles area. He didn’t attend culinary school, but instead put in his time rising through the ranks and learning his craft in the kitchens of some of the most celebrated chefs in the country. He discovered a love of cooking, almost by accident, when he was a 17 year old busboy at a local restaurant. “The kitchen was short staffed one night,” he remembers. “They asked me to fill in, and suddenly, it all felt really natural and I knew that this was something I could and wanted to do.” The real eye opener came when he had the opportunity to train under Wolfgang Puck at Eureka Restaurant in Los Angeles when he was in his early 20s. “It was just so inspiring to experience the passion the other cooks brought to the process.”
After leaving Eureka, Jason assisted famed Roy Yamaguchi with the opening of Roy’s Kahana Bar & Grill in Maui. After returning to Southern California, he accepted the position of Chef Tournant under Hans Rockenwagner at Rockenwagner’s in Santa Monica and the popular Rox restaurant in Beverly Hills. Venturing north, Knibb took over as Sous Chef at the San Francisco eatery, Moose’s Café.
He left San Francisco to oversee the opening of Malibu in Warsaw, Poland, where he trained the restaurant’s kitchen staff and created its California Cuisine menus. Jason returned to the U.S. in 1996 to become Sous Chef at Joe’s Restaurant in Venice, California. Following a successful two-year endeavor at Joe’s, he landed in Sundance, Utah where he worked for La Jolla’s own Trey Foshee at the famed Tree Room, taking over the position of Executive Chef after Trey’s departure. To this day, Jason cites Trey as having the biggest influence on his cooking style.
“Each of my mentors has a simple common philosophy about cooking, which translates into my style today,” he says. “We each create regional cuisine using the freshest, local products available. I find the most culinary pleasure in blending an eclectic mix of classic techniques with modern styles inspired by the ethnic diversities of San Diego. I couple that with my own vision of new American cuisine by taking traditional dishes and giving them a simple, elegant twist.”
A recognized name in culinary circles across the country and universally acknowledged to be among the top chefs in Southern California for his consistently exquisite food and artistic presentations, Jason has amassed many awards and accolades for his style and cuisine. Most notably: Zagat Survey® Food Score of 25 (very good to excellent); numerous “Best Chef in San Diego” nods from a variety of media; Gayot’s Top 10 Molecular Restaurants in the U.S.; Zagat’s Top 10 Restaurants in San Diego; and a Rising Star Chef Winner/StarChefs (one of only 2 chefs in San Diego to be recognized for this coveted honor), to name just a few. He has also been featured in Food & Wine magazine, Sunset magazine and Jamaican Airlines Magazine’s in-flight publication, Sky Magazine, and has appeared as a guest chef at the James Beard House, as well as The Food Network’s “Cooking Live with Sara Moulton” and a featured chef on Bobby Flay’s “Food Nation – Best of Utah” program.
In November of 2011, Jason was a contender on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America, battling Bobby Flay in a seafood/caviar showdown. This showing was the first time a San Diego chef had been invited to compete on Iron Chef, marking yet another significant milestone in his culinary career.
In 2014 Jason was honored by the California Restaurant Association’s (CRA) San Diego Chapter as the “San Diego Chef of the Year”. The award was presented by San Diego’s Mayor, Kevin Faulconer. Considered San Diego’s most prestigious restaurant honors, the elegant “Gold Medallion Awards” gala attracted over 1,200 industry guests, including our city’s most celebrated restaurateurs, chefs, purveyors, city dignitaries, media and foodies.
And most recently, in 2019 and 2021, NINE-TEN received a “Plate Distinction” in the premiere California Michelin Guide, one of only 34 San Diego restaurants to receive such distinction.
Jose Alonzo III joined Chef Jason Knibb’s team in the pastry kitchen at NINE-TEN Restaurant in La Jolla in May of 2016. As Pastry Chef, he has full operational and directional responsibilities for the pastry kitchen to include infusing the lunch and dinner menus with a variety of desserts ranging from seasonal offerings using products from local artisan providers to house-made cheeses and sorbets.
Jose was formerly with the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa where he served as Assistant Pastry Chef, executing desserts and menu development for the restaurant’s main dining room and banquet operations.
A San Diego native, Jose began his culinary career working at JRDN Restaurant at the Tower 23 Hotel in Pacific Beach. He has since worked in a variety of pastry positions at Flavor Restaurant & Bar, DBar, Bali Hai Restaurant, and Cannonball/Draft.
Jose is a 2007 graduate of the Art Institute of California, San Diego, where he earned an Associates of Science Degree in Baking & Pastry.
Passionate, dedicated, knowledgeable, and one who enjoys making a positive impact on others are just some of the words to describe Chris Russo, Server and Wine Director, for NINE-TEN Restaurant. Born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, Chris moved to Minnesota at the age of twelve. Following high school graduation and many years of mid-west winters, Chris ended up in California to study Biology, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science degree from UC Santa Barbara. While attending UCSB, Chris worked as a painter for Burnham Wood Golf Club in Montecito, CA. On one occasion the banquet staff was shorthanded and asked Chris to fill in- tuxedo, white gloves, silver trays and all- thus beginning his food and beverage experience. It was during this time that Chris served a culinary great, Julia Childs, who was a member of the club. He vividly recalls her ordering soda water with five ice cubes and three dashes of bitters. Not knowing who she was at the time, he quickly poured some soda water over ice and added some bitters to the glass. Upon serving the drink, Ms. Childs politely admonished Chris and asked him to bring her exactly what she had ordered. Once he became aware of who she was he found himself embarrassed and learning a lesson in the art of listening and attention to detail, skills that he has since perfected.
After receiving his degree, Chris ventured south to San Diego to pursue his interests in the bio-tech field where he worked at Roppongi, an upscale Asian fusion restaurant in La Jolla at the time. Chris made a decision to leave San Diego after a few years to further his education by obtaining a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Upon completion of his degree, Chris returned to San Diego to further pursue employment in the bio-tech industry and to enjoy the weather and beaches. During his employment search, Chris applied for a position with NINE-TEN as an interim job until he landed the job of his dreams in the bio-tech industry.
Chris joined the NINE-TEN Restaurant team as a Server in 2007 after noting on his application that he was a “waiter extraordinaire”. In his more than a decade with NINE-TEN, Chris has been able to couple his love of food and wine with the satisfaction of creating memories and experiences for guests. As a matter of fact, Chris continued to work at NINE-TEN when he found himself working in the bio-tech industry, for GenWay and Illumina respectfully. His enthusiasm for service and personal contact made him realize that, although he had enjoyed his studies, bio-tech was not his calling. Chris decided to commit himself to working full-time at NINE-TEN and pursuing certification as a Sommelier. Chris received the top score on his Introductory Sommelier exam in a class of over 100 people and became a Certified Sommelier only six months later.
Following his Certified Sommelier designation, Chris began working as Wine Director at NINE-TEN where he acts as a mentor by sharing his knowledge of food and wine to co-workers and guests alike. Chris remains an integral part of the NINE-TEN team, recognized frequently by guests for his outstanding service, knowledge and wine recommendations. He was awarded San Diego’s “Sommelier of the Year” by the readers of Ranch & Coast Magazine in 2017, 2019, 2020, and 2021, as well as San Diego’s “Best Restaurant Server” by the readers of the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2021. His knowledge has also garnered the restaurant numerous awards for having the best wine list in San Diego.
Outside of work, Chris loves to travel, particularly internationally, in an effort to further his depth and breadth of food and beverage knowledge through a variety of culinary experiences. Upon return from his adventures, he is thrilled to share his experiences and knowledge in order to help benefit others. He contributes to park and beach clean-ups in his local community of Point Loma and Ocean Beach. He also enjoys the company of his beloved dog, Murphy, whom he has been working to train as a therapy dog with “Love on a Leash”, an organization that takes animals into convalescent homes to briefly better the lives of those individuals living there. It can easily be said that Chris leaves a lasting impression on anyone he encounters and those who have had the opportunity of knowing him are better for it.
Aaron joined the leadership team of La Jolla’s NINE-TEN, the Michelin Plate Distinction restaurant located at the Four Diamond Grande Colonial hotel, in May of 2021 as the Director of Food & Beverage. In this position, he oversees all food and beverage service operations including meetings, weddings, and banquets, and in-room dining. Aaron also works alongside Chef Jason Knibb, directing all front-of-house operations, developing training and service standards, and managing the overall beverage and wine program of the restaurant.
Aaron began his hospitality career working as a server and bartender at Bristol Lounge, located at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston. He continued his Four Seasons training in Boston over the next 7 years moving up to assistant in-room dining manager, assistant banquet manager, and then director of the in-room dining department. In 2016, he ventured west to the Four Seasons Resort & Residences in Vail, Colorado, where he spent the next four years directing all operations at The Remedy Bar before being promoted to Assistant Director of Food & Beverage of the entire resort. Aaron comes to La Jolla after most recently spending a short stint as a Hospitality Recruiter for Goodwin Recruiting. He brings to his current position significant experience and leadership, as well as a commitment and desire to create and provide a world-class dining experience for his guests.
Raised in southern New Hampshire, Aaron attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, where he received his bachelor’s degree. He is also a graduate of The Four Seasons’ Culinary Externship Program and holds Introductory Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Aaron currently resides in Encinitas and enjoys hiking with his husband and their two dogs, Oliver, and Riffraff.