An Evening At Bleu Boheme: The Chef And His Cuisine, Ken Irvine - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Home And Business

An Evening At Bleu Boheme: The Chef And His Cuisine, Ken Irvine

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Posted: Friday, October 11, 2019 3:13 pm

There are plenty of restaurants in Coronado. And there are plenty of types – French, Italian, Thai, Mexican … the list goes on and on. And we can walk or ride a bike to them. Even though this is true, still we keep getting in the car and hopping across the bridge to Kensington to go to an absolute favorite – Bleu Boheme.

The draw is more than the fabulous homey French bistro food. It is the warm atmosphere, the neighborhood bistro feel and the fact that no matter how long we stay at the table, no one is trying to rush us out. As the lights flicker inside and the darkness descends outside, one feels enveloped in the warmth of conversation and happiness – just the sort that goes best with food.

In a bit of homage to another story of another storied chef that was recently published, one might put it this way. The tl;dr version of chef and owner, Ken Irvine’s life goes like this. He accidentally moved to Coronado but very intentionally opened Bleu Boheme.

The longer version of the story starts a long time ago when Irvine was a teenager growing up in Montreal. He was a normal, ice-hockey playing, self-respecting Canadian. He even had his own custom skates. But, his father, who was in commercial fishing, had been traveling often from Canada to San Diego. So often, that when Ken was 14, his father decided that it would be best to move the family rather than to keep traveling the 2500 air miles regularly.

Irvine didn’t mention how he felt at that vulnerable age about moving. But he did describe how it felt landing in San Diego. “We took a limo from the airport … I had never been here before and we started over the bridge and I was like, ‘Oh my god.’”

He couldn’t believe the view, the beauty or his good fortune. But it just got better from there. Irvine said that they arrived at the building – the 14th floor of La Playa at the Shores. His dad had already rented the place and it was furnished. He said they came down the hall and there were two doors. He pointed to one and saying, “Ken, that one’s going to be your room.”

Irvine said, “I walked in and the entire wall was window with a view down to the beach full of bikini-clad girls.” He thought he was in heaven. He still does.

For a guy who loved Coronado so much, it is surprising that he left – even if only for a little while. But as a young adult, he did. He said that for seven years, he did commercial fishing. But at some point, a girlfriend noted that he liked cooking and suggested he become a chef. He ended up attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After that, he went to Europe, where he continued his training working in the Michelin-starred Relais du Moujins in the south of France, where he said the first week he was there, Jackie Kennedy Onassis dined.

In all, Irvine has lived in Vancouver, Quebec City, Montreal, London, France, Spain, and San Diego. He was named Restaurateur of the Year by the California Restaurant Association in 2011 and Bleu Boheme has been named Best French Restaurant by San Diego Magazine nearly every year since 2010, and by the California Restaurant Association nearly every year since 2011. Bleu Boheme also won OpenTable’s Diners French Choice award nearly every year since 2010.

For a guy with so many accolades to his name (he also had an early tv show), it wouldn’t be surprising for him to have offers that might lure him away. But this is the place he intends to stay. And, for now, Bleu Boheme is the place he intends to keep his focus on. As the principal of Irvine Hospitality Group, he consults and develops concepts for restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, wineries and retail outlets. And he currently serves as Executive Chef at Sea180º in Imperial Beach. Irvine says, “I have as much work as I want … I see five deals a week. But it would have to be a great deal for me to take it up.”

So, in case you worry that Irvine might leave southern California and leave us hungry, he assures me that, in fact, he never intends to leave Coronado. He says, “I have a single-story bungalow in the Cays. I could stay there even if I needed a wheel chair.”

But now, at a healthy, I-surf-the-Cays-nearly-every-day-age, he says, “If I didn’t have the restaurant, I’d never leave the island. I’d leave the Cays because I like to golf. But I’d never leave the island.”

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