San Diego native Travis Swikard can remember the moment he knew he would be a chef: just 4 years old, he watched his father deglaze a pan with Cognac. Flames erupted, and a culinary passion was ignited.
Growing up amidst the farms of “North County” and close to the ocean, Swikard became obsessed with the culinary riches of the San Diego area early on, and started working in restaurants at just 15. His first job – meant to be a one-week stage at downtown San Diego restaurant Kemo Sabe – turned into a four-year run, as well as his introduction to his eventual business partners; but not before 10+ years on the East Coast.
In 2005, Swikard enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute, and traded SoCal for the Northeast. New England led to England, where Swikard joined Chef Phil Thompson’s team at Auberge du Lac and made a pivotal connection between fine cuisine and leadership. The lesson served him well when he returned stateside and joined Chef Gavin Kaysen’s team at French chef Daniel Boulud’s Michelin-starred Café Boulud, where he swiftly worked his way up the line. When Boulud was opening Boulud Sud – his bustling French-Mediterranean restaurant across from Lincoln Center – Swikard was hand-picked to be Executive Sous Chef, and the Executive Chef role followed soon after. He went on to head three of Boulud’s seven NYC restaurants as Culinary Director.
After more than a decade in NYC Swikard made the move home to begin work on his first solo restaurant – Callie, a Mediterranean-inspired, California-inflected restaurant, which opened in 2021.