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Best Of 2011 — People
Over the last several months, we asked you, our readers, to tell us what you like best about San Diego. Best local spa? Gallery? Doggie daycare? New boutique? Person you’d like to have lunch with? How about best band? (Hint, they just won their first Grammy!) Thousands of votes poured in, and we’re thrilled to reveal the winners of our Readers’ Choice Best of 2011 survey. Congratulations to San Diego’s bests! Compiled and written by Darlene G. Davies, Elizabeth Hansen, Maria Desiderata Montana, Andrea Naversen, Mia Stefanko, and AnnaMaria Stephens
Best TV Personality: Kimberly Hunt
Hard to believe, but Hunt has been on San Diego television for two-dozen years, no small feat in a highly competitive field. An award-winning anchor and reporter at KGTV, Hunt gives back to many causes, including United Cerebral Palsy, the Burn Institute, and Opportunity International. In a business known for oversized egos, Hunt is as nice as they come. (www.10news.com)
Best Radio Personality: Cliff & Brooks
Cliff Dumas and Brooks O’Brian not only rate with our readers, but with the Academy of Country Music, which recently named the duo “Radio Personality of the Year” in a major market. For Dumas, a 25-year veteran, the win was bittersweet as the two parted ways in mid-February. Brooks continues to entertain listeners weekdays from 5am-10am. The 46th Annual ACM Awards air April 3 on CBS. (www.kson.com)
Best Athlete: Philip Rivers
Okay, so the Chargers didn’t exactly have a championship season, or make the playoffs for the first time in years, but #17 is still #1 with Ranch & Coast readers. The 29-year-old quarterback led the league in passing yards, throwing a career best of 4,710 yards, and was once again selected for the Pro Bowl. Still remaining on Rivers’ dance card, a playoff win and a trip to the Super Bowl.
Best Weatherperson: John Coleman
Don’t let his on-air antics fool you. KUSI’s John Coleman is the real deal when it comes to weather. A former weatherman on ABC’s Good Morning America, Coleman also founded the Weather Channel before eventually relocating to San Diego where he reports on June Gloom, SOSAs (Sort of Santa Anas), and of course “the breeeeeeezzze!” Coleman knows his stuff, and after nearly 60 years, he still has fun sharing it with viewers. (www.kusi.com)
Best Business Leader: Irwin Jacobs
The co-founder of the wireless technology company Qualcomm, Jacobs globally revolutionized cell phone communications. A former professor at MIT and UCSD, Jacobs later became a successful entrepreneur with the telecommunications company Linkabit. Now one of the richest men in the world, he also is rich in spirit. He and wife Joan contribute generously to the San Diego Symphony, UC San Diego, and many other causes.
Best Chef: Jason Maitland
The former executive chef at Arterra, Maitland is now a readers’ fave at Flavor, the new restaurant in Del Mar Plaza dishing up “simple food, done well.” Maitland’s seasonal menu draws on local, organic ingredients that are rich in flavors. The dazzling view overlooking the Pacific is free. (858/755-3663, www.flavordelmar.com)
Best Sommelier: Jesse Rodriguez
A repeat readers’ pick, The Grand Del Mar’s gracious wine director Jesse Rodriguez oversees a 35,000-bottle inventory, which last year added five new prestigious wine program recognition awards to an already impressive list of accolades — all awarded by Wine Spectator magazine and Santé, the Magazine for Restaurant Professionals. (858/314-2000, www.thegranddelmar.com)
Best Bartender: Charlie “Mac” McLaughlin
“Mac,” as he’s known, sure knows how to mix them up. For nearly 20 years, the personable mixologist has been working the bar at Pacifica Del Mar. Mac’s specialties include margaritas — he’s “a big fan of tequila” — and “fun little vodka drinks” like the fresh poached pear ginger martini. Mac says his best bartender award should include the “good group of guys and girls” who make up the Pacific Del Mar staff. (858/792-0476, www.pacificadelmar.com)
Best Maitre D’: Julien Hug
For the fifth year, the charming and handsome host of Mille Fleurs is our readers’ favorite. Sadly, this latest win is awarded posthumously. Hug passed away last year, leaving family, friends, and restaurant patrons with a void that is impossible to fill. (858/756-3085, www.millefleurs.com)
Best Philanthropist/Volunteer: Lena Evans
The indefatigable Evans heads Jade Phoenix, which provides support and volunteers for nonprofit organizations. She serves on the boards of Got Your Back Network, San Diego Symphony, San Diego City Ballet, Rady Children’s Hospital, the Old Globe Theatre Guilders, and Fashion Group International. She and her husband often host charitable events at their beautiful Rancho Santa Fe home, “Casa de Tortuga.” (www.jadephoenixcorp.com)
Up & Comer To Watch: Saam Adams
No, not the beer, the beautiful artist and model. You’ve probably seen Adams on the runway and in print ads, commercials, and film. But she’s also an accomplished artist. Check out her online store, a showcase for her self-portrait designer graphic Ts, fashion leggings, oversized feather earrings, handbags, and baby stuff. She’s definitely one to watch! (323/287-5900, www.saamdesigns.com)
Local Well-Known You’d Like To Have Lunch With: Phil Mickelson
Masters champ and native son Phil Mickelson is our readers’ pick to break bread with, no doubt on the 19th hole after a round of golf and a few pointers from the pro. Our readers will even carry his bag. Mickelson and wife Amy are well-known off the course for their foundation, which focuses on education and family issues, and for their steadfast support of severely injured troops and their families. (www.philmickelson.com)
Best Local Nonprofit: Fresh Start Surgical Gifts
Since 1991, Fresh Start Surgical Gifts’ community of volunteers has been transforming the lives of disadvantaged youth who have physical deformities, caused by birth defects, accidents, abuse, or disease, through the gift of reconstructive surgery. (760/944-7774, www.freshstart.org)
Best Green Company: Ecotopiia
Located in coastal Encinitas, this quaint boutique offers all things green, from fashionable clothing made from bamboo, soy, and hemp to the best natural, organic, petrol-free, and paraben-free personal care products, as well as goodies for your furry friends. (760/753-7420, www.ecotopiia.com)
More Best Of 2011: