July 18, 2013
New Food Network show looking for chefs

GGG Flyer Final.jpg

By Janelle Bitker

Food Network is on the hunt for creative chefs to compete in a new cooking show.

Competitors will be tasked with grocery store challenges, with up to $20,000 on the line.

Some potential examples? Make steak and potatoes, only the store is out of steak and potatoes. Or whip up a delicious dinner for four with only $6.

"We're looking for chefs who can think out of the box and on their toes," said Jen Walsh, casting associate producer.

And they're looking for professional chefs of varying backgrounds - executive chefs at fine dining establishments, sous chefs at neighborhood joints, wedding caterers, etc. - right now. There are no open casting calls, rather, producers will conduct phone and Skype interviews with people of interest.

The show is currently unnamed, but based on the titles of some forwarded PDFs, we'll put our money on something like "The Great Grocery Games."

Check the flier for more details and email to apply.

June 17, 2013
New chef de cuisine puts in first week at The Kitchen

By Cathie Anderson

After a nationwide search, the Selland Group has hired John Griffiths to be its chef de cuisine at The Kitchen.

The Kitchen's former head chef, Noah Zonca, is part of the team developing the new Capital Dime restaurant at 1801 L St. in midtown Sacramento.

Zonca didn't go to culinary school. He learned his trade at The Kitchen, starting out as a dishwasher there. Griffiths, on the other hand, is a graduate of the culinary program at Schoolcraft College outside Detroit. He's been an executive chef for many years now and comes to The Kitchen from a position as campus executive chef at Washington University in St. Louis.

May 13, 2013
Enotria's new GM: Looking to bring stability, maintain excellence

junnyyun.jpegOver the past nine months, Enotria Restaurant and Wine Bar has made a name for itself as a great dining destination, complete with artfully created food, polished service and a vast wine list.

But the restaurant has also seen more than its share of growing pains and personnel changes under the leadership of its dynamic and exacting executive chef, Pajo Bruich, notably the recent hiring - and then hasty departure - of general manager Anani Lawson, whose pedigree included stints as sommelier at two Thomas Keller restaurants, the French Laundry and Per Se.

Earlier this month, Enotria hired a new general manager, Jenny Yun, whose assignment will be to bring the right balance of excellence and casual fun to the dining room while providing a sense of stability and cohesiveness to what may be Sacramento's most exciting restaurant.

March 21, 2013
Here comes the 'bride,' dressed in 1,000 French macarons

st.francis.jpgNext time your travels take you to San Francisco, carve out some time for a look a 6-1/2-foot-tall wedding cake made out of vibrantly colored French macarons (meringue-like cookies).

The mega-cake is inside the ornate lobby of the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square, next to the 157-year-old Viennese Magneta grandfather clock, a popular rendezvous spot for generations of San Franciscans. The cake is in celebration of the spring and summer wedding seasons, said a spokesperson, and will be displayed through May 6.

"Growing up in France, macarons were and still are my favorite dessert, and I find it very exciting that they've become the treat du jour here in the U.S.," says St. Francis executive pastry chef jean-François Houdré. "This wedding cake is a labor of love inspired by my childhood roots."

The chef and his staff devoted 75 hours to the cake, which is decorated with 1,000 handmade macarons in various sizes and flavors.

Upcoming at the St. Francis are Easter weekend lodging packages, children's activities, special programs and brunch. For more information:, 415-397-7000.

January 16, 2013
Who are top 50 most powerful people in the food biz?

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Those arbiters of all things food and drink at the Daily Meal have announced their third annual "America's 50 Most Powerful People in Food" list, and it's a cornucopia of tasty bites.

"These are the men and woman who have made a substantial impact on the way we eat," explains a spokesman. "Their decisions directly affect what we consume day to day - for better or for worse."

Though most of the players on the list are corporate and government types whose companies and federal agencies have international influence, included are Santa Rosa-based restaurateur-TV host Guy Fieri (pictured), who was the subject of a media blitz when the New York Times' restaurant critic blasted his Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square in mid-November; Napa Valley restaurateur Thomas "The French Laundry" Keller; restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, whose Spago in L.A. helped spark the California cuisine movement when it opened in 1982; author and TV host Anthony "No Reservations" Bourdain; author Michael "The Omnivore's Dilemma" Pollan; and New York restaurateur-chef Mario Batali.

Here are the top 10 influencers. See the complete list at P.S.: Coming in at No. 50 - "the American farmer."

January 9, 2013
Toast National Pizza Week (and big game) with beer dough

PRINT_5x7_300dpi_NewOrleansPizza_LowAngle_1296.jpg.jpg.jpg.jpg.jpg Here's a toast (and a twist) to National Pizza Week! (Yes, it's pizza week, now through Saturday.) Instead of beer and pizza, how about putting the beer IN the pizza?

Pizza expert Mark Bello of New York City's Pizza a Casa Pizza School ( perfected this recipe for The Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Pizza, of course, is a popular pick for Super Bowl parties. The Big Game is Feb. 3 in New Orleans. So, Bello offers a twist on the classic Italian Margherita pizza with a spicy New Orleans' Big Game Pizza.

December 20, 2012
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri bounces back from NY flap

FIERI.jpg Guy Fieri, perhaps 2012's most talked about celebrity chef, is home in Santa Rosa for the holidays, getting ready for another non-stop busy year.

Last month's much-Tweeted blow-up over his new Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in New York City's Times Square has "blown over," he said.

Fieri already answered New York Times critic Pete Wells' scathing "open letter" of 34 questions with some sharp words of his own on the "Today Show," calling the review "ridiculous" and "overboard."

November 20, 2012
Guy Fieri controversy comes full circle on 'SNL'

First, the New York Times roasted celebrity chef Guy Fieri with a flame-thrower review of his new Times Square eatery from critic Pete Wells. Then the host of Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" responded on the "Today" show, suggesting that Wells had an agenda. Meanwhile, many in Sacramento had a fist bump of support for Fieri, who runs two restaurants in the area and even attended culinary classes at American River College.

So how do we know that this controversy has come full circle? "Saturday Night Live" weighed in this weekend with a skit that skewered both Fieri and the Grey Lady simultaneously. The bit didn't make the final broadcast (this clip is from a pre-recorded dress rehearsal), but it's peppered with plenty of funny nonetheless. Enjoy.

Does Guy Fieri own the country's worst restaurant?
Lambasted in N.Y., Guy Fieri has culinary fans in Sacramento

October 18, 2012
Catching up with chef Charlie Harrison about gig in Chicago

I recently caught up by telephone with Charlie Harrison, an excellent and innovative chef who worked at several restaurants in the Sacramento area and was perhaps best known for his modern, eclectic cuisine at the short-lived Tre on Howe Avenue.

Harrison is now in Chicago, reunited with his roommate Homaro Cantu from their days at Portland's Western Culinary Institute. Cantu is the mastermind behind Michelin one star Moto restaurant, known for "interactive post-modern cuisine," and next door, the new iNG restaurant. Harrison is working at iNG. Cantu once won an Iron Chef going head to head with Morimoto. The restaurants are nestled in a trendy/industrial area of Chicago amid the loading docks and 19th century warehouses of Fulton Market. Grant Achatz's martini bar, Aviary, and his new restaurant Next, are nearby.

"I'm helping Homaro out. I can't tell you too much information yet, but I can say it's going to revolutionize brewing. If you know anything about Homaro, he's very outside the box. When it comes to creativity, he's off the chain. Things that come out of his kitchen are insane. Working for him is an education. You're learning something new every day." Harrison says the brewing concept should be unveiled in the next few months.

Cantu is also a big proponent of social media as a way of spreading the word about what is going on at his restaurants. "He bought all 60 employees iPhone 5s so we couuld blast our restaurants all day," Harrison told me.

October 4, 2012
The Spice Queen of Singapore will cook a feast at Lemon Grass

download.jpgRestaurateur-chef Mai Pham has worked her cooking magic in Sacramento since 1988, when she debuted Lemon Grass restaurant at 601 Munroe St. It continues to serve some of the best Southeast Asian cuisine anywhere.

Pham is a world traveler who brings imagination and flair to whatever project she happens to be involved in at the time.

Want proof? Pham is bringing Singapore celebrity chef, cooking instructor, cookbook author and food columnist Devagi Sanmugam (pictured) to the Lemon Grass kitchen to prepare a multi-course meal. "We'll be treating our guests to the flavors of Singapore," Pham said.

The feast will be Oct. 25, with seatings at 6 p.m. in the main dining room and 7 p.m. in the bar-area dining room. Cost is $48 per person (not including tax and tip). For reservations: (916) 486-4891; seating is limited.

The menu will go like this:

September 17, 2012
Thiemann earns early promotion but will still cook at Ella

There's a lot going on with the local restaurant scene these days, but one thing you may not have heard about is the expanded role of Michael Thiemann, the chef at Ella Dining Room & Bar, who has been winning raves since taking over for Kelly McKown.

The Selland Group, which owns Ella, as well as The Kitchen and Selland's Market-Café, didn't put out a public announcement about it, but Thiemann's role has definitely expanded in recent weeks to include oversight of all of the kitchens.

"Mike Thiemann has been given a promotion. That's something that's been done ahead of schedule," Josh Nelson, co-founder and chief financial officer of the Selland Group, told me Monday.

September 6, 2012
Which celebrity chefs make the most bread...uh, money?

How much money do chefs make each year? According to the trade magazine Nation's Restaurant News, executive chefs who run the kitchens at independent restaurants pull in around $71,000 a year.

Now let's move to the next level - celebrity chefs. They're celebrities because of their TV shows or their great restaurants or both.

The Daily Meal - the online site that reports on everything food- and drink-related - has compiled its annual list of "America's 25 Most Successful Chefs," ranked by their annual earnings.

Included are Gordon "Hell's Kitchen" Ramsay at $38 million; Paula "Paula's Home Cooking" Deen, $17 million; Bobby "Throwdown!" Flay, $9 million; Thomas Keller (The French Laundry in Yountville), $8.4 million; Guy "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" Fieri, $8 million; and Anthony "No Reservations" Bourdain, $6.1 million.

For the complete list, visit

August 30, 2012
Napa Valley restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn opens Wood Grill

MAJ RESTURATEUR PAWLCYN.JPGVeteran restaurateur and cookbook author Cindy Pawlcyn is reinterpreting the "American wine-country comfort foods" so popular at her iconic Mustards Grill (since 1983) in Yountville in the Napa Valley. They will migrate to the menu of her newest restaurant, Cindy Pawlcyn's Wood Grill & Wine Bar.

Diners will also find some of the signature dishes from two other restaurants that Pawlcyn once co-owned - the Buckeye Roadhouse and Fog City Diner.

"C.P.'s," as it will be called, will open Sept. 5 at 641 Main St. in St. Helena. The space was formerly the site of Pawlcyn's Go Fish restaurant, then became her Brassica Mediterranean Kitchen.

This newest incarnation replaces Brassica and will serve dishes such as sweet-crispy pork belly, Napa cabernet-braised shortribs, crab roll, artisan pizzas, vegetarian dishes and desserts (blackberry-apple crumble with crème fraîche ice cream is a good choice).

"We are all really excited about this transition," said Pawlcyn. "Many friends have been asking me to bring the flavors of Mustards Grill to this location, and it makes sense."

Look for live jazz and world beat music on the patio (6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays), and the ongoing Vintner Splash casual wine-tasting program (6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays).

More information: (707) 963-0700,

June 8, 2012
SacTown Dining Collective debut event a tasty success

The SacTown Dining Collective's kickoff event at Plate's Cafe on Thursday night couldn't have gone smoother. Some 350 tickets had sold out 10 days prior, all of the food courses came out in a timely fashion - many of them even ahead of schedule - and the Sacramento chefs and restaurateurs who make up the collective reveled in their camaraderie. Most of all, their food was superb.

The SacTown Dining Collective formed with the idea of mobilizing local food movers-and-shakers to show how much culinary talent exists in this town, along with highlighting the local farmers and purveyors who provide first rate ingredients. Getting this group off the ground wasn't so easy at first, and for a minute defining the collective's mission and goals was more like the SacTown Herding Cats Collective. But on Thursday night, there was Mike Thiemann of Ella Dining Room & Bar testing out his fried chicken course - which had first been cooked sous vide before frying - on chef Oliver Ridgeway of Grange. Out on Plate's Cafe's lawn, near the dinner's family style seating, you'd find Adam Pechal (Tuli Bistro/Restaurant Thi13en) working side by side with Rob Venditti of Mulvaney's B&L and David Hill of The Chef's Table.

The dinner also attracted a who's-who of Sacramento's food scene, including three generations of the Selland family, winery owner Sean Minor, Nguyen Pham of Sunh Fish, chef Pajo Bruich, Taro Arai of Mikuni and Kimio Bazett of Golden Bear, who was also a key organizer of Thursday's dinner with local food enthusiast Amber Turner.

May 11, 2012
A talented chef lands job on the farm

254279_1792558329303_1100006574_31565437_5891698_n.jpgMike Ward, who recently left his job as chef de cuisine at Lounge ON20, didn't stay unemployed for long. He just accepted a job at Feeding Crane Farms. It's a newly created position called culinary development manager, and given Ward's background in the kitchen along with his interest in organic farming and green living, it seems tailor-made for him.

I recently wrote about this promising new farm and actually interviewed Ward, who was then a customer.

When I called Ward on Friday morning, he was already out in the field, as upbeat as ever. I could certainly sense his excitement, but I was more than a little concerned as well. Ward is no ordinary cook. He is a real talent, a chef with passion and creativity who has put in his time developing his skills. When he wanted to up his game, for instance, he moved to New York City and started working at some of the best restaurants in the city, and eventually landed a job at Picholine, a highly regarded Michelin two-star restaurant.

April 26, 2012
Chef David Hill set to open a second restaurant

Here's some exciting news out of Roseville (and Rocklin). David Hill's restaurant in Rocklin, The Chef's Table, opened three years ago and immediately had to confront two formidable obstacles - the plethora of chain restaurants in the area and the horrible economy that was prompting consumers to scale back on eating out.

So what's the good news? The Chef's Table has done so well and has become such a fixture in the community that Hill is opening a second restaurant, to be called Hill's Kitchen, at the site of the short-lived Pause restaurant in Roseville. The concept for the new place, which is slated to open in early June, is sure to attract attention in a town not known for its seafood.

"It's going to be a sustainable seafood and chop house," Hill said Thursday. We're going to bring in fresh seafood from various sources and have it as the marquee item."

The restaurant will be at 1465 Eureka Rd., Roseville, in a part of town with plenty of popular restaurants, including Paul Martin's American Bistro in the same shopping center. To keep up with progress as Hill and his team put some fresh touches on the near-turnkey building, check them out on the Facebook here.

April 23, 2012
Chef Thomas Keller tells (almost) all in an online interview

Michelin star-holding chef Thomas Keller is one busy restaurateur, overseeing the French Laundry, Bouchon and Ad Hoc in Yountville, and Per Se in New York City.

So it was a pleasant surprise to see him take time to be interviewed by the online Daily Meal as part of its "At the Chef's Table" series. The Daily Meal reports on all things food and drink, and its newly launched video-interview program is a welcome addition to the site.

For part one of the four-part interview with chef Keller, go to The other three parts will be posted in coming weeks.

Try this soundbite from Chef Keller: "I really got involved in cooking through my previous job, which was washing dishes. I think there's so much value in that job - organization, efficiency, feedback, teamwork, repetition and rituals. It's exactly what a cook does. And so that act of washing dishes really set the stage for me to become a really good cook."

April 16, 2012
Movie to see: 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'

jirodreamssushiposter.jpg"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is a documentary with a simple story - one man's lifelong quest to master his craft.

It just so happens that the craft is sushi and the man is Jiro Ono, perhaps the most revered sushi chef in Japan and, thanks to the recent foray of the Michelin Guide into that nation, an increasingly famous culinary treasure throughout the Western world.

The movie is in Japanese. The subtitles are in English. The message is universal. To watch "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is to be inspired and humbled. Jiro is in his mid-80s and has never stopped learning or seeking new ways to be better at what he does. He goes to work every day, tirelessly seeking the two prongs of greatness - mastery of what he has done countless times while dreaming up ways that have yet to be attempted.

The movie is playing at the Crest through Thursday and I highly recommend it. Though it is not uniquely a foodie movie, anyone interested in restaurants, cooking or fine food would find something to love. Beyond that, the movie is for anyone who can appreciate the story of a humble man who sets out to do better and better, day after day. Sushi consumes him - the product, the technique, the traditions, and the innovations.

April 9, 2012
Yelp revenge? A chef vents on Facebook

Yelp has an interesting business model. Goes like this:

Open your membership to everyone, even those with just enough brainpower to lightly brown a piece of toast.

Let the smart, not-so-smart and the downright ignorant remain anonymous, lest they have to explain themselves.

Allow these people to rate businesses, especially restaurants. Encourage people to take Yelp seriously. Hilarity ensues.

I'm not necessarily anti-Yelp. I have have friends on Yelp -- respectable people, nice people, foodies. I just dislike many things about it. Apparently, so do certain chefs -- like Aimal Formoli.

March 21, 2012
Bouchon Bakery back in business, Addendum re-opens Thursday

With visions of brioche and buttery croissants, the line snaked down Washington St. in Yountville on a recent morning. The message was clear: Bouchon Bakery (6528 Washington St., Yountville; 707-944-2253), the heart of Thomas Keller's baking operations, had finally re-opened. Bouchon Bakery creates the baked goods for the French Laundry, Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bistro, along with running its retail shop that doubles as a popular foodie destination. Bouchon Bakery's retail space had been closed a month for remodeling. The bakery itself also required an overhaul following a September fire which reportedly started above the bread oven.

The remodeled bakery features a new, two-door entrance and added cash register that ideally allows for a smoother flow of traffic. The bakery itself, which goes through some 1,200 pounds of dough a day, has also increased its cooking capacity. Its new steam tube deck oven is capable of baking 120 baguettes at a time, which are sent to Keller's restaurant operations and other eateries around Yountville.

"As business increased, we'd outgrown the space," said Matt McDonald, Bouchon Bakery's head baker. "This space was built out to do more volume. It's a non-stop, 24/7 operation."

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