June 19, 2007
New Chef, New Menus at The Firehouse

With lunch Wednesday and dinner Thursday, The Firehouse in Old Sacramento is to introduce new menus, the first under the direction of newly named executive chef Deneb Williams.

Some dishes will be makeovers of longtime Firehouse staples, such as the Sonoma Valley foie gras, now to be accompanied with a confiture (confection) of black mission figs and prosciutto instead of the previous braised apple compote.

Others will be new, reflecting Williams's grounding in the French culinary arts and his experience and interest in Mediterranean, Italian, Pacific Rim and New American cuisines. The dinner menu, for example, will include a tea-smoked, pan-seared duck breast with a sweet-potato confit, as well as a thick-cut, pan-roasted pork t-bone with a caramelized onion and pear compote.

"My techniques are simple. I'm not a flashy, showy chef, but my approach is creative and I will have some signature dishes," says Williams, who grew up at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island in Puget Sound. "I want to bring this culinary program back to life."

He's been working in restaurants for more than two decades, starting when he was 12. He's put in stints and drawn praise at such outposts as Medicine Bow Brewing Company in Cheyenne, Wyo., MacKenzie's Chop House in Colorado Springs, and the Cliff House at Pikes Peak.

He most recently was executive chef and director of food and beverage for the boutique Resort at Port Ludlow on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. He wasn't expecting to leave, but he heard about the opening at The Firehouse and liked what he saw when he visited Sacramento for a job interview, especially the restaurant's extensive wine cellar. "The wine list really caught my eye. It's indicative of a commitment to excellence. If they're willing to invest that kind of time, energy and money in their wines, they must be willing to invest the same time, energy and money in their food program," Williams recalls thinking.

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