San Franciscan-born and bred Erika Lenkert is the creator and editor in chief of GFF (Gluten Free Forever) Magazine. She is also a bon vivant, a traveler, a culinary writer, a single mother, and – importantly – a lover of great food. She says, “I’ve always been a food person. Growing up as a child of a single mother, my mother would take me everywhere to eat, but I also needed to fend for myself in the kitchen. When I was in junior high and high school, I was working as a receptionist, and then cold-calling at another job, but with the money (I earned), I would take myself out to eat.” Even more prescient of her future undertakings, as a child, Lenkert would gather her friends together and they would play how to create a magazine, creating subscription cards along with feature stories
After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in English Literature, Lenkert began a career as a freelance writer – and never looked back. For twenty years, she’s been a food writer for both San Francisco and Los Angeles Magazines and penned prolifically for Food & Wine, InStyle, San Francisco Chronicle, Elle, Travel & Leisure, and numerous other outlets with an approachable but knowledgeable voice. Furthermore, she’s written several books, including Party Girl Primer, Raw with Chef Juliano Brotman, and The Real Deal Guide to Pregnancy.
In 2014, Lenkert, who has been gluten intolerant since 2001, originated a Kickstarter campaign, raising close to $100,00 for a new culinary book about cooking without gluten; hence, GFF Magazine was born. “Starting a magazine was a crazy idea,” she says. “I feel like I bit off more than I could chew. I’ve always been more of a barter type of person but I found that I had to ask for what I needed without the possibility of giving it back.” At that time, she states, it was the most difficult in her life as she was going through a divorce, starting GFF, and found herself sick for the first time in her adult life with erythema infectiosum, commonly called the “fifth disease.” However, she never gave up her lifelong mission of creating a quality culinary magazine along the lines of Gourmet, except for the new health-oriented generation. “The food always has to be the star,” she says.
In March 2016, Lenkert partnered her second baby – she has another with two legs — with Meredith Corporation, who currently publishes well-read titles devoted to food and wellness such as Eating Well, Shape, and Better Homes & Gardens. Essentially, the relationship moves Lenkert’s quarterly publication from 12,000 issues to 250,000, with a newsstand price of $9.99 under their specialty titles. In today’s publishing world – with journals dropping like flies – it’s nothing short of a miracle. Truth be told, the deal was probably sealed with Lenkert’s infectious enthusiasm for her work in creating a culinary periodical. She – a runaway train knowing its’ true and right destination – states, “The name of the magazine might be GFF, but I want people to have the opportunity to cook and eat well. I want to give people happy food.” (Readers of i8tonite can receive a special price with the promo code: SPRING16. Sign-up via gffmag.com).
Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust)
What is your favorite food to cook at home? The “Best Effing Chicken”—a stupidly simple, over-the-top delicious boneless roasted chicken recipe taught to me by SF chef Daniel Patterson. It uses two ingredients and takes two minutes of prep, and it’s seriously fabulous. Or caramelized broccoli – I regularly make a meal out of it.
What do you always have in your fridge at home? Califia Farms vanilla almond milk, butter, eggs, and peanut butter.
What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? A penchant for skipping the small talk and getting right into the frank, honest conversation.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Resistance to sharing food.
Beer, wine, or cocktail? Depends. GF beer after a long day, wine at a dinner party, and a Manhattan out with friends.
Your favorite cookbook author? I don’t have time to read or cook from cookbooks. With 45 or more recipes in each issue of GFF, whenever I finish one, I’m off recipe developing, testing, and writing for the next.
Your favorite kitchen tool? A good knife. I’m not a gadget girl (less is more for me), but I do like my microplane, too.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Favorite? Japanese. Most common? Italian or “Californian” (i.e., a bunch of fresh stuff thrown together).
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu? Chicken, though I’m leaning more and more toward a vegetarian diet.
Favorite vegetable? Broccoli
Chef you most admire? Hiro Sone. He makes such beautiful food. Literally and figuratively.
Food you like the most to eat? Sushi. And French fries. 🙂
Food you dislike the most? I’m not a hater.
What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Travel, though that always includes food exploration.
Where is your favorite place to eat? Anywhere there’s good company. Or good food. Or fun bar-dining. Or all three.
What is your favorite restaurant? I don’t have one. But Nopa is my San Francisco fallback—because it has the aforementioned elements that make up my “favorite place to eat.”
Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? My skin is unadulterated—except for the sun damage from iodine-baby oil sun-tanning in the ‘80s and living on Maui in my 20s.
Recipe: Best Effing Chicken
Get the butcher to debone 1 large whole chicken (they’ll do it at Whole Foods). Salt it with 1 teaspoon of salt 1 to 3 hours prior to cooking and reserve in the refrigerator until 10 minutes before cooking. Lay the chicken flat, skin-side up, on a rimmed sheet pan and broil it about 3 inches from the heat, or until the skin is very crispy and brown, about 10 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 250°F and cook for 25 minutes. Cut the chicken into entrée-size pieces, transfer to a platter, and prepare to be blown away.
Chef Kathy Fang is the daughter of one of San Francisco’s legendary chefs, Peter Fang of the House of Nanking. To the uninitiated, those who have never eaten Chinese food in Shanghai or one of the major Asian-American urban hubs such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and Vancouver have probably eaten the domestic version normally laden with excess soy sauce, oils and fried. Shanghai food mixes a variety of regional Chinese cooking, primarily because the twenty-four million inhabitants come seeking work in the big city. Street carts characterize the cuisine – eat and run – such as steamed buns, scallion pancakes, and a variety of rice balls. Each morsel can produce bold, complex flavors if placed in the correct hands – such as Chef Fang. Even today, more than twenty-five years later, queues are outside the first Chinatown located restaurant with far-flung travelers, guidebooks in hand, ready to dine on Fang’s Shanghainese-type eats.
Along comes his daughter, Kathy Fang, who is every bit her father’s progeny but personifies the new generation of chefs, realizing that there is more than just the kitchen to cooking. After working in the corporate scene, the younger Fang decided to follow in the family’s footsteps, learning about European cooking techniques at a premier local culinary school. Together, in 2008, the father and daughter team opened Fang Restaurant, an elegant establishment focusing on the Chinese regional foods, but with a more refined, gastronomic approach.
“I’m very blessed to be around my dad and parents,” states Ms. Fang about working with her parents and father. “My dad can be very stubborn but we work together many hours of the day. Ultimately, we have a very loving relationship inside and outside the kitchen.”
Last year, Ms. Fang, was a winner on Food Network’s Chopped, the broadcast cooking competition show which places four chefs against each other with the hopes of winning ten thousand dollars. Ms. Fang, a petite and attractive woman, beat three burly Caucasian men. She says of winning, “Now, we get customers, mostly female, who come into Fang. They say, ‘I was rooting for you all the way against those guys. It was great to see a woman win.’ “
Ms. Fang’s future is bright as she continues to cook with her father at their eponymously named gourmet hall. Outside the kitchen, though, she is branding herself as a culinary leader with My Fangalicious, her website and family recipes. Her hopes are to become the next Martha Stewart with a “branded wok” and other gastronomic items like her Caucasian predecessors. As her clientele has attested, it’s good to see diversity in the food mix, so all people can be included in the conversation.
Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust)
How long have you been cooking? Since I was 6 years old
What is your favorite food to cook? Pasta
What do you always have in your fridge at home? Eggs, hot sauce.
What do you cook at home? Asian and Italian food
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? I’m lucky in that a lot of our customers come in to Fang knowing to trust the chef. I love customers who come in with an open mind to try new things to eat.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Customers who finish their meal and then tell you afterwards they didn’t like it. If you don’t like it, mention something right away. I feel like any restaurant would apologize and offer to make something different for you. Just be up front in the beginning, and we would be more than happy to make any changes for you.
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex
Beer, wine, or cocktail? Wine to wind down at home or when having dinner. Cocktails for a night out, a gin martini to be exact.
Your favorite cookbook author?David Chang. I love how he weaves his own story into the growth of all his restaurants. You learn about him, his restaurants, and his recipes all in one book.
Your favorite kitchen tool? This may seem weird but my electric kettle at home. I’m obsessed with it mostly because it heats up to boil so fast. I boil water for tea, water for boiling pasta, water for blanching. I also heat up soups using the kettle because it’s so fast. I just let it go, brush my teeth, work on my computer and then it shuts off after it boils. I also boil eggs in there in the morning. For the cost and how often I use it and in so many different ways, it’s really one of the best little kitchen tools I have.
Your favorite ingredient? Soy sauce (I grew up eating this and I can’t imagine my cuisine without it)
Your least favorite ingredient? Lemon pepper. I always think it has this weird fake element to it. And I never understood why you wouldn’t just use fresh lemon or citrus and freshly cracked pepper.
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Dishes
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian, Chinese, and Japanese
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu? Pork
Favorite vegetable? I know it’s an overused vegetable and it seems like it’s that overly popular girl at school that everyone seems to talk about, but KALE is truly one of my favorite vegetables. For one, I’m a health nut, so any vegetable that I find healthy, I like. But aside from that, I find kale super versatile. I buy in big amounts because I can go through it all week. I can bake kale until it’s crisp like chips, I can sautée with eggs in the morning for breakfast. Kale works well in soups and stews. It also makes great salads if done right. And finally toss it in smoothies to get extra vitamins and fiber. There are just so many ways to eat kale!
How many tattoos?And if so, how many are of food? None.
Recipe: Pesto Udon Noodle Salad
Make fresh pesto by blending fresh Italian basil, 2 garlic cloves, 3 tablespoon grated parmigiano reggiano, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 4 tablespoon high quality evoo, and salt. Taste and set aside. Bring a pot of water to boil (or use electric kettle) and pour the hot water over packaged udon noodles. Separate the noodles and let sit for 1 minute and stir. Remove from water and run under cold water. Set aside. Dress the udon with freshly made pesto and plate. Slice some grilled chicken breast or roasted chicken and top the udon with it. Mozzarella balls and cherry/grape tomatoes are a great addition to this dish, as is a generous sprinkle of parmigiano reggiano.
“When opportunity knocks on your door, you have two choices (and) if I had waited until I felt ready, I would’ve missed what has turned out to be the greatest opportunity of my life,” says Chef Suzette Gresham, referring to Acquerello, the almost 27-year old Italian restaurant she co-owns with Giancarlo Paterlini. A friend had tipped off Gresham that there was an opening for an executive chef under the management of Paterlini. At the time, as a young chef, Gresham didn’t feel qualified, but decided that failure was nothing more than not meeting someone else’s expectations. She applied for the job – and the rest, as they say, is culinary history.
Since the opening of Acquerello in San Francisco’s posh Nob Hill neighborhood, the recognition and accolades just keep coming. Acquerello received its first Michelin star in the introductory 2007 Bay Area guide. In 2014, Gresham received the second star, making her the third woman in the United States and the second in San Francisco to receive this prestigious honor. Chef Gresham is also only one of two women to receive the American Culinary Federation’s “Antonin Careme Award” – the other was Julia Child.
Chef Gresham remains true to her belief that you must understand the very basics of cooking before you can become a great chef. She takes an innovative approach to Italian cuisine at Acquerello, allowing her curiosity, creativity, and passion for all things Italian to manifest in an innovative manner. However, she remains true to the heart of Italian cuisine: clean fresh ingredients, sourced locally, prepared lovingly and with attention.
While Gresham believes in flavor above all, she prides herself on the definability of her food. “If you close your eyes and put the fork in your mouth, you should still be able to tell what you’re eating,” she comments. In the end, there are no tricks to the cuisine at Acquerello, no attempt to dazzle beyond the inherent capability of the plate’s ingredients.
Over the course of her thirty-five year career, and beyond the laurels, Chef Gresham’s approachable manner has allowed her to mentor over sixty interns and apprentices at Acquerello. It’s her belief that she has had more than her share of the “good stuff” in life. In giving back, Gresham shares her knowledge and commitment to turning out the very best in every person who works in her kitchen. In an industry dominated by men, Chef Suzette Gresham has become one of the most influential chefs in the world.
Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
How long have you been cooking? Chronologically: For two-thirds of my life.
What is your favorite food to cook? At home: Soup. Japanese Chiriashi. Hainan chicken. Duck Larb. Or, whatever my daughters request.
What do you always have in your fridge at home? I am a condiment whore. I can cook in almost any cuisine at a moment’s notice based on what I have on hand. I am never without a variety of imported butter, mustards, multicultural pickled items, truffle oil, and oodles of hot sauces.
What do you cook at home? From one end of the spectrum to the other: Seafood sashimi and crudos to long-cooking braised items like pig’s feet with cannellini beans.
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Curiosity.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Closed mindedness.
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? All three: Clear plastic containers with matching lids, Vintage Pyrex, heat resistant Rubbermaid spatulas.
Beer, wine, or cocktail? All three: Chilled, fresh homemade beer, Italian Barolo wine, and a “Mountain Man” cocktail or other crafted drinks created by Christopher Longoria.
Your favorite cookbook author? Seriously? There are cookbooks in every room of my house, including the bathroom. I want to hear everyone’s voice.
Your favorite kitchen tool? At home: Super sharp, pointed scissors. At work: “tickets” which are micro tongs. (A gift from a past employee carried back from Spain.)
Your favorite ingredient? Monocultivar Olive oil.
Your least favorite ingredient? Lavender. Although I can cook with it.
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Stand around.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Global.
Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?All three: Wagyu Beef seared, Chicken stock with Matzoh balls, Nonna’s skin-on pork roast, Tofu skins stuffed with mushrooms.
Favorite vegetable?Leafy greens: Swiss chard, rapini, spinach, and all bitter greens.
Chef you most admire? Massimo Bottura: He has never relented in following his dreams. He is true to himself AND his food.
Food you like the most to eat? Great naked salads of wild greens. Unusual sushi. Properly seared Foie gras. Big pearl Royal Osetra caviar.
Food you dislike the most? Sea slugs.
How many tattoos? As a Chef and a woman… I always leave something to the imagination.
And if so, how many are of food? Notice above. I listed “chef” first… you can decide.
Recipe: Acquerello’s Scallop Crudo with Carrot Vinaigrette
*Chef Suzette Gresham notes: The photo of the scallops is beautiful. It is meant to inspire and not restrict. It seemed to be one of the most do-able of our recipes and is open to interpretation. The Scallops create a clean canvas with which to pair your favorite flavors. The carrots are a surprising and colorful yet underrepresented vegetable in an elegant setting. It just shows that with a little mindfulness, what you can create. You don’t need to have exotic ingredients to create something delicious, as long as you are creative.
The recipe can be adapted any way you like and you can use whatever tools you have. For example you can poach, sautee, or steam the scallops if you like. You can use beets instead of carrots. Or any veggie, Drizzle with olive oil. You don’t really need xatham gum. Make it your own. This recipe is just meant as a template.
Size 16/20’s scallops
Place scallops, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt in vac bag. Vacuum seal. Place vacuum-sealed scallops in a circulated water bath at 54C for 25mins. After cooked, ice down until 33F. Slice scallops.
2C fresh carrot juice
1T Apple cider vinegar
.2% xathan gum
Salt to taste
Blend carrot juice in vita-mix with apple cider vin. Add xathan gum. Season to taste.
Red Pepper gel :
6 Large bell peppers juiced
2 tien tsin chilies
Gellan gum 1%
Xathan gum .02%
Salt to taste
Bring bell pepper juice and tien tsin chilies to boil in small pot, turn off heat cover and steep for 10 mins. Strain out chilies with fine mesh strainer. Weigh reserved juice in grams. Add 1% gellan gum and bring to boil to activate. Cool until set in metal 3rd pan.
Once set, blend gel in vita-mix with a small pinch of chili flakes. If need, add water to get desired consistency. Add Xanthan gum just to keep gel from weeping. Pass gel through fine mesh strainer to remove chili flake particles. Vac to 100% in Cryo-Vac machine in metal 6pan to remove suspended air and brighten color.
Carrot tips, about 3″ in length.
Slice carrot tips into rounds on mini mandolin, bring fry oil up to 250F add sliced carrots.
Fry until carrots curl up. Drain carrot flowers off onto paper towels and place in dehydrator for 2 hours to crisp up.
Pulsed Marcona Almonds, High quality finishing oil to drizzle, Micro Greens/Herbs
For more than fifty years San Francisco’s Bay Area is considered to be North America’s epicurean kingdom – long before the term Silicon Valley entered into our lexicon and made it a technology-based realm. With American Wine Country, Napa and Sonoma, sitting at the back door along with Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry, Charles Phan’s Slanted Door, Cindy Pawlcyn’s Mustard Grill and Fog City Diner leading the culinary pack, it’s also created and ushered some of the country’s best wordsmiths and journalists in the world of food and wine. Michael Bauer, John Birdsall, Amy Sherman, Marcia Gagliardi, Harvey Steinman all stand at M.F.K Fisher’s door including winning awards from the famed epicurean organization James Beard. However, for almost two decades, James Beard award-winner Carolyn Jung, the former food editor at San Jose Mercury News, and sole proprietor of FoodGal.com, have put on a different face to the Northern Californian dining scene. Residing outside the kingdom’s walls in the San Jose area, although born and raised in the City by The Bay – Jung’s writing’s on the area’s food scene is full of knowledge and has made her one of the pre-eminent voices in the national culinary circle . FoodGal is read far outside Northern California with readers international in scope. She is also one of the area’s non- Caucasian food media which we discussed at length after she posted an article from First We Feast about the lack of diversity in food writing.
A true San Franciscan, Jung was born at Clay and Polk to Chinese parents. She was then raised in Diamond Heights, near Twin Peaks where the roads are all named after gemstones. Jung has been at the forefront of San Francisco’s cookery explosion reporting first-hand on its continued national influence including visiting my client, at the time, The Restaurant at Meadowood when it received its second star Michelin star under Chef Christopher Kostow.
Before becoming the food editor at San Jose Mercury News, which she refers to as “the Merc”, her beat was on race and demographics. She says about the transition to food writer, “In a great way, my previous beat allowed me to transition seamlessly into the food one. There were so many times on my former beat where I’d start to report on a story, and community leaders would always say, ‘Let’s go eat first.’ Food has always been important around the discussion of community. It may be a cliche, but breaking bread with someone really is the ultimate icebreaker.”
After she was laid off in 2008 from San Jose’s leading newspaper, she craved an avenue to continue communicating with the readers she carefully cultivated, hence FoodGal.com which has nearly a hundred thousand unique visitors per month. It’s where Jung continues to use her journalistic reporting on the area she loves so much and the epicurean people and foodstuff within. When asked if she ever considered leaving, she responded, “I had several opportunities before I left the newspaper but I wanted to stay. My parents lived here. I’ve also love working the Bay Area and its diversity. We start the food trends – although New Yorkers might disagree.”
Jung is also a gifted emcee hosting many events throughout the Bay Area including many of the Macy’s cooking demos in Santa Clara as well as in San Francisco.
She just completed for the fourth year Chefs’ Holidays at Yosemite’s luxury Ahwanhee Hotel. Upcoming, Jung will be at Macy’s on February 10th with Pastry Chef, Christy Ikezi.
What is your favorite food to cook at home? Does baking cookies count? It is my favorite thing to make. In fact, there are times when I get so stressed with deadlines that I think, “I must go bake some cookies right now — or else!” It’s my relaxation; and my vice.
Whatdo you always have in your fridge at home? Condiments of all kinds — I love them. Cheese; fresh seasonal fruit; good jam; and a jar of preserved Meyer lemons (I make them every winter with lemons from my dwarf tree).
What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Good conversationalist, great sense of humor, and a willingness to try most anything at least once.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Talking about themselves non-stop, taking no interest in the other people they are dining with, and staring at their cell phone constantly.
Beer, wine or cocktail? I like all three. But I am partial to a creative and balanced cocktail, followed by wine — if someone else is driving me back home.
Your favorite cookbook author? My friend Andrea Nguyen, because she is so meticulous with her recipes, and we share a love for perfect dumplings. Joanne Chang and Emily Luchetti because their baking recipes never disappoint. Bruce Aidells because he is the authority on meat. Jean-Georges Vongerichten because he is as renowned and sophisticated a chef as there is, yet he can actually write recipes that won’t make your head spin, teach you practical techniques you may not have known before, and create distinctive, flavorful dishes that one can actually make at home.
Your favorite kitchen tool? My Le Creuset Dutch oven. In fall, winter and spring, it gets a real workout, as I use it for all manner of soups, stews and braises. Not to mention, it’s a looker in dazzling blue.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Most anything. That’s the fun part about getting so many cookbooks to try — you get to learn about so many different cuisines and cultures. And of course, the baking books are always the ones I look at first. Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’m going to have to go with pork because it’s such an important part of my Chinese heritage. Plus, pork is so versatile. And let’s face it, so delicious, too.
Favorite vegetable? I would like to say heirloom tomatoes, but that’s a fruit, despite what most people think. So, I’ll go with asparagus. I look forward to its appearance every spring, then go crazy buying it every week at the farmers market, until its season comes to an end all too quickly. I like it especially grilled or roasted, which brings out its natural sweetness. Chef you most admire? There are so many. I give them so much credit for how hard they work, the endless hours they put in, cooking on the line, on weekends and holidays, and missing so much family time. I admire Thomas Keller for being a class act, and always pursuing perfection; Jamie Oliver for shining a light on childhood obesity; and Jose Andres for working to get solar ovens in third-world countries, where young women are often accosted, beaten or raped while trying to gather firewood for their families.
Food you like the most to eat? Have I mentioned cookies? OK, well, there’s also my obsession with kouign-amanns. Basically, if I could eat pastries morning, noon and night — without any consequences — I would. Food you dislike the most? I’ll try anything once. But I must say after having natto once, I probably don’t need to have it again. What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Exercise (heck, I do have to burn all the calories I consume); read a good book for hours on end (a luxury I rarely have time for, unfortunately, except when I’m on a long plane ride); treat myself to a spa day (yeah, that happens about once every five years); catch up on movies with my husband; hang out with friends and family (though, that most often does involve food in some shape or form); and watch “American Ninja Warrior” (yes, I’ll cop to that). Who do you most admire in food? Farmers, who are so dedicated, don’t make a whole lot of money in return, and have to put up with the uncertainties of Mother Nature year in and year out. Without the work they do, our lives would be a whole lot less delicious, nutritious, and full of wonderment. Where is your favorite place to eat? It can be a fancy restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall, or even my own home — as long as the company is delightful, the food prepared with care and love, and the vibe comfortable, relaxing, and stimulating. What is your favorite restaurant? Depends on my mood, craving, and thickness of my wallet on any given day. I could pick The French Laundry because I’ve had several memorable meals there, and my husband actually proposed to me in the parking lot there. I could choose Yank Sing because I adore its dim sum, and I held my wedding banquet there. I could say Nathan Myhrvold’s “Modernist Cuisine” lab, because I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually dine there. Or I could pick the Honolulu bare-bones, plate-lunch spot, Nico’s Pier 38, where chilly and bleary-eyed after getting up at the crack of dawn to tour the Honolulu Fish Auction, I ate a simple ahi omelet made with fresh fish from that auction, while sitting outside as the sun came up on a glorious Hawaii morning.
Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None. My Mom never would have approved of that.
Carolyn Jung’s Recipe:
I chose this dish because it’s nearly Chinese New Year’s. It’s also a dish that reminds me of the type of comforting, satisfying food my Mom used to cook when I was growing up. I’d pick the crispy noodles out of the pan with my fingers, as she’d shoo me away. When it was finally ready, my brothers and I would line up at the stove to help ourselves to a tangle of noodles, and sit down to a bowl of joy.
Crispy Noodles with X.O. Chicken & Bok Choy (Serves 4)
For the marinade:
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1∕8 teaspoon ground white pepper
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
For the sauce:
4 tablespoons chicken broth
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon X.O. sauce (available in jars at Asian markets)
1 teaspoon chili bean sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
For the rest of the dish:
8 ounces fresh, thin Chinese egg noodles
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 fresh hot red chili, thinly sliced
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps only, sliced
1 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise
To make the marinade: Combine the rice wine, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and stir to coat evenly. Let stand for 10 minutes.
To make the sauce: Combine the broth, soy sauce, rice wine, X.O. sauce, chili bean sauce, and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
To cook the noodles: In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, and drain again.
Place a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, swirling to coat the sides. Spread the noodles in the pan and press lightly to make a firm cake. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the noodle pancake over, add 1 more tablespoon oil around the edges of the pan, and cook until second side is golden brown, 3–4 minutes. Remove to a serving plate and keep warm.
Place a stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, swirling to coat sides. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the marinated chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to a small bowl and set aside.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan over high heat, swirling to coat the sides. Add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook for 1 minute. Add the sauce and bring it to a boil. Add the bok choy, cover, and cook for 1 minute.
Return the chicken to pan and stir to heat through. Pour on top of the noodle pancake and serve immediately.
Recipe Courtesy of San Francisco Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the City by the Bay by Carolyn Jung. Photo by Craig Lee.
Anzu’s Chef Michael Raub‘s story is one that seems to exemplify the phrase, “Life is what happens when you’re making plans.”
From Texas barbecue to the French Laundry to Asian-Fusion cuisine, Michael Raub, Executive Chef at the Hotel Nikko San Francisco, didn’t plan a career in the restaurant business.
Though cooking was a big part of his youth (with not one, but two grandmothers in the kitchen at every family gathering), his coursework was in marketing while at university in Houston, Texas. After college, he went to Colorado to pursue an internship in the hospitality industry. It was there that fate (or life) took over, and Michael’s career in the restaurant business really began.
After a brief return to Texas, he pursued the best of the best: The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. His ambition and initiative served him well, and he was soon on his way to Napa Valley, California, where he interned at Bouchon, quickly moving on to a full time position as Garde Manager. In 2010, he was promoted to Sous Chef. Michael stayed with the Keller Group for four years, also working at Ad Hoc and the French Laundry, a Michelin three star restaurant.
In 2012, Michael accepted a position as Executive Sous Chef at Ame Restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco, where he worked with Hiro Sone, winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chefs of California award.
Michael credits both of his grandmothers with instilling in him an appreciation of good food and fresh ingredients, his first employers with his work ethic, and his determination with a bit of luck, for the opportunity to work alongside some of the best chefs in the business.
Anzu is the perfect venue, allowing him to create dishes like Sichuan Peppered Filet Mignon and Citrus Glazed Mahi Mahi (recipe below). The menu incorporates his love of high quality meats and fresh local sustainable seafood. It seems that life was just waiting to bring Michael’s particular blend of experience and skill to Anzu at the Nikko.
Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):
How long have you been cooking?
What is your favorite food to cook?
I love cooking with fresh seafood. It is very delicate and takes constant attention.
What do you always have in your fridge at home?
What do you cook at home?
I love the experience of smoking fish and meat all day to make delicious Barbeque. A great way to spend a day off!
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I haven’t served a customer in a very long time. What I find appealing about one of our guests is a sense of adventure.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex, but prefer a good old fashioned mason jar.
Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Your favorite cookbook author?
Right now, I can’t put Dominique Crenn’s new book down
Your favorite kitchen tool?
Your favorite ingredient?
The lettuces and herbs we are getting from Ecopia Farms right now!
Your least favorite ingredient?
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Leave for the day
Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Japanese, Italian, and Korean
Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?
Whatever is at the peak of the season
Chef you most admire?
Food you like the most to eat?
Food you dislike the most?
Hard Boiled Eggs
How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Recipe: Citrus Grilled Mahi Mahi with Thai Green Curry
1 T Olive Oil
3 T Green Curry Paste
1 Shallot (Minced)
1 Inch Peeled Ginger (Minced)
2 Cloves Garlic (Minced)
.5 Each Lemon Grass (Chopped)
1 C Coconut Milk
1 C Dashi
5 Each Kaffir Lime Leaves
1 T Fish Sauce
1 T Brown Sugar
2 Bunches Thai Basil
1 C Baby Spinach
2 T Kosher Salt
1 T Sugar
1 Lime (Zested)
1 Lemon (Zested)
1 Orange (Zested)
1 t Cracked Coriander
4 each 5 Ounce Mahi Mahi Portions
1 Large Butternut Squash
12 Mixed Marble Potatoes
4 C Baby Spinach
1 Clove Garlic (Minced)
For the curry, heat the oil in a medium heavy bottom pot on high heat until slightly smoking.
Add the shallot, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and brown for about two minutes.
Add the curry paste and kaffir limes and continue cooking another minute. Add the coconut milk and dashi and bring to a simmer.
Add the sugar and fish sauce and cook for thirty minutes.
Season to taste and let cool to room temperature.
Remove the kaffir lime leaves and place the curry in a blender with the spinach and basil.
Puree until completely smooth and pass through a fine mesh strainer.
For the citrus cure, combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and reserve.
Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and flesh. Peel the outer layer and cut into one inch pieces and roast in the oven at 400 degrees.
Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
Season the mahi with the citrus cure and grill until medium to medium well. The internal temperature should be 150 degrees F.
Take the half of lime and place on the grill, flesh side down, until a dark caramel crust forms.
We like to finish our mahi in the oven on a smoking plank of cherry wood.
Take a large sauté pan and heat up a small amount of olive oil and place the garlic in the pan and sweat for thirty seconds.
Place the spinach in the pan and cook until just wilted.
Blanch the mixed marble potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender. Heat the curry and add the squash and potatoes.
Ladle the curry in four separate bowls and top with the wilted spinach.
Serve the fish on the side on the wood planks, so you can add the fish as you eat the curry.
The End. Go Eat.
All photos courtesy and copyright Anzu at the Hotel Nikko, San Francisco
From his childhood days helping out in the family market and churning butter on the farm near Bergamo, Italy, Chef Ruggero Gadaldi developed his love for and understanding of regional Italian foods. His passion for preparing only the most authentic Italian cuisine lead him to study at Italy’s prestigious San Pellegrino Hotel School. From there, he made his way to the US via a number of positions at five-star hotels throughout Europe, New York, and finally San Francisco, with a stop in Los Angeles to cook for Pope John Paul II.
In 2008, Gadaldi received the San Francisco Chronicle Visionary Chef Award. His restaurant, Antica Trattoria, was voted Best Neighborhood Italian, Bay Area Critics Choice Award, SF Chronicle, 1996 – 2008.
In a city known for great food and plenty of Italian options, Delarosa, Gadaldi’s latest venture, is the kind of place that locals favor for reliable and reasonably priced Italian food served in a casual and contemporary atmosphere. The newest location at Yerba Buena Lane has exactly the same look and feel as the Marina location: the kitchen is open, and space is light, with accents of orange.
Delarosa is only one of a number of celebrated Italian restaurants in the Bay Area to which Gadaldi has dedicated his passion for preparing authentic Italian food.
Chef’s Questionnaire with Ruggero Gadaldi
How long have you been cooking? Since I entered the “Scuola Professionale Alberghiera di Stato” for Chef in San Pellegrino, Bergamo, Italy in 1972.
What is your favorite food to cook? Regional Italian.
What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese, salami and pickles
What do you cook at home? My wife does the cooking at home, I’m the dishwasher. (Big smile.)
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? When a customer is served and they take that first bite, they pause and then a smile appears. We hope then that we have added to their day.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Being disrespectful.
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex
Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine with my meal, and a Negroni at the end of my day.
Food you dislike the most? There isn’t much I dislike. I love food !!!
How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Zero. I admire some but cringe when I think about the pain they had to go through to get them.
Recipe: Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce (Serves 4 – 6)
3 Tbsp Olive oil
4 Chopped garlic cloves
1 tsp Calabrese chili flake
16 oz. Tomato-basil sauce
In a saucepan, heat olive oil and add garlic and chili flakes. When garlic starts to get brown add tomato- basil sauce. Cook for 10 minutes at medium heat.
¾ lb. ground beef
¼ lb. ground veal
½ lb. Italian sweet sausage (out of casing)
1 cup Bread crumbs
¼ cup Milk
1 Tbsp Finely chopped garlic
2 Tbsp Finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 Egg whites
½ C Grated Fresh Pecorino cheese
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to Taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Mix thoroughly, though not over handling. Before creating balls, put a little bit of olive oil on your hands in order to minimize sticking. Spoon out mixture and create meatballs that are approx 1.5-inch balls. Place on a greased sheet pan and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Place meatballs in the Spicy Tomato sauce and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.
Plate: 2 to 3 meatballs on a plate and add a spoonful of sauce on top. Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
Chef Mat Schuster is a master of Spanish cuisine. He is the executive chef and co-owner, along with his partner, Paco, of the four year-old Canela Bistro & Bar located in San Francisco’s Castro. With Schuster’s creative hands, diners will eat a phenomenal Croquettas con Jamon, a fried small egg shelled shaped tapa, crunchy on the outside and once bitten, oozes out a creamy béchamel interior, dotted with Iberico jam bits. He also submits guests to his version of iconic Spanish albondigas (meatball), a thoughtful mixture of pork belly and shoulder with a hint of housemade chorizo served in an apple cider sauce. Most of San Francisco’s dining landscape is steeped in Anglo, Italian and French cooking, but the food of Spain is some of the most under represented in the culinary capital. Chef Schuster, along with his talented staff, serve up a variety of the country’s tasty bits without having to pull out your passport. In i8tonite’s Chef Questionnaire, he talks about his love of fish, his dislike of sea cucumber and love of Spain.
How long have you been cooking? Sixteen years I suppose but some days I feel like I just started!
What is your favorite food to cook? I love cooking fish and seafood in general. That is my favorite.
What do you always have in your fridge at home? Cheese, yogurt, fruit, almond milk, something pickled, something spicy, something creamy.
What do you cook at home? When I do cook at home, its usually things that we don’t cook at the restaurant like fish tacos or barbecue.
What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Great question. Adventurous, friendly, approachable.
What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Unadventurous, unfriendly, unapproachable. Ha ha!
Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? All of them and multiples.
Beer, wine or cocktail? Beer, beer, beer.
Your favorite cookbook author? Its like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.
Your favorite kitchen tool? Knife.
Your favorite ingredient? A good olive oil.
Your least favorite ingredient? Sea cucumber. Seriously, we actually were served this at a Michelin-star restaurant. Yuck.
Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Waste time.
Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Spanish, of course!
Food you like the most to eat? I have a sweet tooth. I need a patch for it.
Food you dislike the most? Haven’t really met one. Oh wait, sea cucumber.
How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None…at the moment.
Recipe from Chef Mat Schuster: Seared Mushrooms with Sherry
Here is a recipe that Chef Mat likes to make at home. Its origin is pinxto bar in Logrono in the North of Spain called Bar Soriano. This place only makes this dish – seared mushrooms in their own juices.
It is simple to make. Take 3 large very white mushrooms. Remove the stem. Heat a pan on high and add in some olive oil, not too much. Sear the mushrooms on one side, then flip when brown. Be careful not to burn. Remove the mushrooms from the pan, add in a little minced garlic and sherry. Skewer the mushrooms on a toothpick and serve on top of a piece of bread. Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice. Delicious.