The Journey of a Self-Taught Chef

If your mom was a good cook – not a great cook but simply a good cook – you probably remember the wonderful smells wafting in from the kitchen…great aromas every time she decided to spend some time creating those mini-culinary masterpieces that tasted so darn good.  Whether it was a weekday breakfast, Sunday dinner, or just about anything she decided to tackle, you knew you were going to taste something delicious.

That’s how it all started for me…I grew up eating terrific food!  When I left home for college, it didn’t take long before I realized what I was missing.  When I moved into my first apartment, the call went out immediately, “Mom, how do you make spaghetti sauce?”  I will never forget it.  So here I am today, an amateur chef, recipe author and cooking instructor; on a path that I’ve been traveling for over forty years.

Like many San Diegans, I’m not a native.  I was born in Philadelphia, grew up in a small Connecticut town on Long Island Sound, and spent many wonderful summers at my grandparent’s home on the Jersey shore.  I love the water, the beach and everything in between.  I am especially addicted to east coast seafood; there is nothing I’d rather eat.  While in the Navy, I was blessed to be stationed on a ship home-ported in San Diego.  This was shortly after graduating from Central Connecticut State University with a BS in biological science and officer candidate school in Newport, Rhode Island in 1967.  Here we have over seventy miles of beautiful and pristine beaches and sea coast, and Carmel Valley is less than two miles from some of the best.

My true cooking career actually began after I was discharged from the Navy.  I stayed in San Diego, worked at Scripps Institute of Ocean, and began to experiment in the kitchen every day.  Steak with orange sauce was one of my first successes, as was the turkey I’d stuff on Thanksgiving Eve.  I would put it in the oven on Thanksgiving morning to roast while I played a game of golf at Torrey pines with my good amigo Norm.  I still use the same recipe today…it’s simple and delicious.

I first called Pt. Loma home, and soon thereafter La Jolla Village, where I lived for eleven years.  My wife Lani and I moved to Carmel Valley in 1985.  We raised our two children, Matt and Chelsea, in Carmel Valley and absolutely loved it.  I really couldn’t have asked for better heirs to the cooking throne.  Since then, I have cooked and cooked and cooked.

I subscribed to “Bon Appétit” magazine in 1978, and have since compiled a collection of recipes.  Until I recycled them a few years ago, I had every issue.  But with the advent of the web, the Food Network, and the plethora of related sites, it is all about storage space now.  One of my favorite things to do is web-surf restaurant menus.  Then i attempt to recreate some of the fantastic offerings.  For me, cooking is relaxing, therapeutic and I get an opportunity to drink great wine while making some creations.  What could be better?   It’s also fun and rewarding.  I’ve won contests with my famous cheese cake, entered amateur chef competitions, and I recently prepared pulled pork and apple crisp for over 300 people at food tasting fund raiser for a local church.

I created “Carmel Valley Kitchen” to spread the cooking gospel.  My philosophy is very simple.  After so many years, I have come to the conclusion that if you’re given the right recipe and you are told where to obtain the best ingredients and the appropriate equipment needed, you will succeed.  I believe that anybody can make restaurant quality food…period.  I am also a huge fan of versatility.  Learn to make one simple sauce that can be used with beef, chicken, fish, pasta or rice and vegetables, and you’ve got six meal options.   I also like to “think out of the box” and “push the envelope” so to speak.  How about seared chicken breast with mustard tarragon sauce and fresh raspberries, or a salad of field greens with grilled fresh pineapple and crumbled blue cheese?  The flavor possibilities are endless!  I encourage you to use recipes as guides; tasting as you go and creating dishes you like.  And you know what the result will be?  Your family and guests will stand on their chairs and applaud you.  I guarantee it.


Carmel Valley San Diego Community | David Clegg | Community Contributor

Dave Clegg is a self-taught amateur chef and recipe creator who has always been inspired by his mom’s great cooking.  He has been cooking for over 40 years and has lived in Carmel Valley with his family since 1985.  He created “Carmel Valley Kitchen” as a way to share his passion.

Dave was recently selected as a semifinalist in the “Next Great! News Instructor Cooking Challenge” and his basic cheese cake took third place at the 2011 San Diego County Fair.  Dave has a comprehensive knowledge of ingredients, equipment and cooking techniques that he is always happy to share.


Carmel Valley San Diego Community | RIDE Cyclery Encinitas

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