A San Diego native, Jose “JoJo” Ruiz is leading the restaurant scene as Executive Chef of both Lionfish at Pendry San Diego and Serẽa, located at the historic Hotel del Coronado. Chef Ruiz earned the prestigious accolade of James Beard Certified Smart Catch Leader due to his commitment to sustainable seafood practices in early 2019, and has been awarded the title again for 2020. Lionfish and Serẽa are the only restaurants in San Diego and Coronado to have been awarded this recognition.
In partnership with Andy Masi of Clique Hospitality, Chef JoJo Ruiz opened Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine at Pendry San Diego in February 2017. At Lionfish, Chef Ruiz showcases a seasonal San Diego-inspired menu serving fresh sustainable seafood and modern coastal cuisine at the bustling Fifth Avenue location seven days a week. As a technique-driven eatery, chef Ruiz sets Lionfish apart from other restaurants in the city, showcasing his careful precision that elevates each dish for the diner, offered in an inviting restaurant environment.
In 2019, Ruiz and Andy Masi continued their partnership with the opening of Serẽa, a sea-to-table coastal cuisine dining experience offering an expertly curated menu of sustainable seafood, meats and other signature selections with a Mediterranean flair. The beautifully designed airy restaurant offers indoor and outdoor al fresco dining with oceanfront views.
Being an influential part of the San Diego community with locally-driven restaurants, Chef Ruiz is committed to supporting Lionfish and Serea with ocean-friendly sustainable practices. From front-of-house to back-of-house, JoJo ensures that his restaurants implement proper recycling practices throughout its entirety, with the aim to proactively help significantly reduce the harmful impact on San Diego’s ocean and beaches by reducing disposable waste. Under Ruiz’ leadership, his restaurants are in full support of the protection of the oceans, beaches and community for generations to come.
Additionally, Chef Ruiz only uses eco-friendly supplies in his restaurants; from biodegradable paper straws to compostable and biodegradable take-out containers and silverware. His dedication to this cause has allowed him to make Lionfish and Serea nationally certified as “Ocean Friendly” by the Surfrider Foundation . JoJo attributes his learning of sustainable practices to Patrick “Paddy” Glennon, founder of the Culinary Liberation (CLF), which brings together a group of chefs to join forces within their respective communities to promote environmental initiatives in the restaurant industry and promote nutritional education.
Chef JoJo is also passionate about being in the forefront of the fight against hunger in San Diego with his involvement in the organization Waste Not San Diego , which gives chefs the opportunity to donate excess food that is then redistributed to local nonprofits. Throughout his career, Chef JoJo has strived to push culinary standards to new heights.
For JoJo, this begins with his team. His approach to leadership is collective – “the stronger the team, the better.” Freedom and a sense of collaboration is instrumental for JoJo when in the kitchen, and he shares a constant willingness to pass on his knowledge through mentoring and training his team to reach their path and individual goals.
As a San Diego native, JoJo enjoys using only local ingredients and produce available fresh at the farmer’s market. His dishes are infused with the essence of San Diego’s personality and always exemplify his strong commitment to sustainable seafood practices and elevating the local fishing and farming communities through choosing the freshest, locally sourced seafood, meats and produce to be used in his culinary creations. Chef JoJo understands seasonality, cooking trends and that the real key is to let the natural beauty and intricate flavor of fresh, sustainable seafood stand out on its own without the need to be over the top or pretentious.
Outside of the kitchen, Ruiz rounds out his lifestyle by partaking in yoga five days a week, spending time working on hot rods and muscle cars, and dedicating time to his family, inclusive of his toddler.