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170 Wine & Spirit Purveyors • 70 of San Diego's Top Chefs
Celebrity Chefs • Cooking & Wine Tasting Classes
Big Bottle Auction • Continuous Food and Wine Tastings
Over 800 Wines • $50,000 Chef of The Fest Competition

Rich Sweeney

Executive Chef / Owner - R Gang Eatery

wine and food festival chef Riche_Sweeney image

Chef Richard “Rich” Sweeney is most definitely a culinary superstar on the rise. Why…because he's already going places. San Diego’s most loveable ‘cheflebrity’ has been making a name for himself in national culinary circles, thanks in large part to his stint as the jovial, cuddly-bear cheftestanton the fifth season of Bravo TV’s Emmy®-winning hit show Top Chef. Though his tenure on the top-rated reality TV competition was short-lived, being selected for the show from over 80K applicants was proof enough that his talent, personality and ambition were a winning combination not only for his career, but also his craft.
The husky 6’4” Sweeney is more teddy bear than tough guy. But, when it comes to the kitchen, he’s all business and no BS. His passion for food is a familial trait, though it didn’t necessarily begin with cooking. Sweeney was raised in the restaurant business, having parents who owned bakeries and managed eateries in his native Long Island. Through his adolescence and teenage years, he seemed primed to forge a career path front-of-the-house, holding every type of position from barista and bagel boy to server extraordinaire. A quick study, Sweeney proved his operations prowess in the bakery but ultimately wanted independence. So, he left the family business and headed to New York City where he worked in several restaurants as a waiter, cocktail server, bartender, host and, eventually, general manager.

Seeking a refuge from the bustle and ‘brrr’ of the Big Apple, Sweeney relocated to San Diego for a complete lifestyle makeover. Soon after arriving, he landed a gig tending bar at the fun, friendly gay hangout, Pecs, and fast amassed a solid group of loyal friends and patrons. Happy with his life and job, but feeling drawn to something else, he decided to rekindle his family legacy and true love of food by enrolling in an intensive curriculum at the San Diego Culinary Institute, one of the Top 10 culinary schools in the US. While there, he competed in the Iron Apprentice Competition at the Chefs de Cuisine Chapter of the American Culinary Federation and won Most Promising Culinarian as well as Best Product Usage. Ranking #1 in his class at graduation, Sweeney was bestowed the school’s coveted Mettzer Award for Outstanding Abilities in Culinary Skills & Leadership. Immediately following graduation, Sweeney accepted a position as Line Cook at Harrah’s Rincon Resort & Casino. After several months learning the ins and outs of the back-of-the-house line, he was offered the opportunity to apprentice under prominent local chef, Chris Walsh, one of the originators of the ‘small-plates’ dining movement in San Diego, at a new downtown dining hot-spot, Confidential Restaurant + Loft. Starting at the bottom, Sweeney quickly worked his way up the chain, eventually becoming Walsh’s Executive Sous Chef.

A huge fan of Top Chef all through SDCI, Sweeney had applied to be on the show yet was rejected by producers four different times for two consecutive seasons due to a lack of experience. At the urging of friends and family, the young chef - now with a track record - again applied for the reality competition and, on his fifth time out, was finally selected as a contestant. Upon his return from production, and barely two years out of culinary school, Sweeney took the reins at Confidential and, at 27, became the youngest established Executive Chef in San Diego. Foodies and legions of fans from across the country took note of his exceptional growth, personality and harmonic flair, both in the kitchen and on the plate. This fueled his desire to take a bold next step in his culinary career. Sweeny bid ‘adieu’ to Confidential in spring 2009 to start, a catering, personal chef, special events and entertainment lifestyle brand that highlights his signature style of food and fun. Through WBC, he helped relaunch the well-known Señor Greenberg’s in Mexico, now Greenberg’s Cabo San Lucas, creating the restaurant’s signature tapas and specialty drinks menus and has cooked for a host of celebrities, superstar athletes, politicians and Fortune 100 CEOs. 

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San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival
World of Wine Event, LLC
1393 North Cuyamaca
El Cajon, CA  92020

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