2016 Chef of the year: Rob Ruiz

Twenty years ago, a teenage Rob Ruiz was just $20 away from homelessness when he landed a job as a restaurant dishwasher in Hawaii. Today, the Carlsbad sushi chef and restaurant owner is a world leader in the effort of save the world’s fisheries from extinction.

This year, Ruiz was one of 12 people honored with the 2016 World Oceans Award. The prize, given by the London-based Blue Marine Foundation, honored his three-year campaign to save Mexico’s endangered vaquita porpoise and to promote the use of shrimp caught without the use of entangling gill nets.

San Diego sushi diners may know Ruiz best for his signature $19 Water Roll (a gourmet sushi roll), but among fellow chefs, fishmongers and seafood scientists, he’s a passionate purist who’s unrelenting in his efforts to promote the sale of sustainable seafood.

His 2-1/2-year-old restaurant, The Land & Water Co., located in a historic 1887 Queen Anne mansion on Carlsbad Boulevard, serves an all-organic, fully sustainable, mostly local menu of seafood, meats, poultry and produce. All sauces and breads are made in-house, herbs are picked from an onsite garden and all the tables, lighting fixtures, railings and wall hangings were built by hand by Ruiz and his chef team.

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