“The greater the adversity, the greater the creativity.” It’s a quote from legendary French chef Michel Bras that chef Jair Téllez holds dear. Téllez, who grew up in neighboring Tijuana and apprenticed at Daniel in New York, believes that the beauty of Valle de Guadalupe’s cuisine is not in the plenty but rather in making something great out of whatever they can get. And it wasn’t always easy—when Laja opened, and for many years that followed, most of the ingredients came from San Diego. Now, Téllez sources from local farms and Laja’s on-site garden and says that the vegetable is his restaurant’s thermometer, clock, and reference. And his self-described “crazy nonsense of an idea” to open Laja worked: It now sits at No. 42 on the list of the 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America. Housed in a stone and adobe building, the restaurant allows diners to choose from a four- or eight-course tasting menu. The offerings constantly change, but one dish that appears often is Vuelve a la Vida—sea urchin, lime, cilantro, and cucumber with smoked corn, and served brothy. Translating as “return to life,” it truly delivers on its name.