Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins

You might remember Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins from her stint on Top Chef. When she’s not competing on TV, she’s the Executive Chef of El Jardín, a modern Mexican restaurant in San Diego. Claudette was born in the U.S. and was raised between Tijuana and San Diego. It’s this mix of cultures and flavors that’s at the heart of her cooking—and the music she plays in her restaurant

“I wanted to combine the old school with the new school—similar to what our restaurant does — and throw in a little bit of hip hop for kicks,” Claudette told us. “Our ‘Best Of’ playlist is a mixture of modern Mexican and rock en español music that I enjoyed listening to during my teen years. I listen to music frequently (and usually incredibly loudly) and plan menus. The music takes me back to different times and places; and the memories help me create. The music I listened to as a teen takes me back to going to Tijuana with friends without my parents knowing! So much fun—those trips were filled with bad teen decisions that always put a smile on my face when I think about them in retrospect. (Tacos tasted better when you felt like an ‘edgy’ kid!)”

Claudette’s playlist features some of her all-time favorites, including the songs, “Cambia del Mole” by Lila Downs and “The Mexican” by Babe Ruth.

Greg Bresnitz