Highly decorated local chef Daniel Patterson, who's one of only two Bay Area chefs (the other is David Kinch) to be cited for his innovations in the Modernist Cuisine tome, is making the bold decision to step away from the kitchen of the flagship restaurant where he made his name over the last decade. That North Beach restaurant, Coi, was not Patterson's first in the Bay Area, but it was the place that he has called home since 2006, and where he's earned two Michelin stars and four stars from the Chronicle, as well as the James Beard Award for Best Chef: West. As of January 2016, as Patterson announced in a statement Wednesday, he'll be handing the reins fully over to another, younger chef, Matthew Kirkley, formerly of L2O in Chicago.
Kirkley has already proven himself in spades via that now defunct high-end seafood spot, and Patterson says, "Matt is one of the best young chefs working in a kitchen today. He earned two Michelin stars at L2O, and, judging from the food he cooked for me recently, it is likely that he will achieve a third."
Patterson says the decision is mostly about family and lifestyle, and in recent years he has become much more of a restaurateur, with two properties in the East Bay (Plum Bar and Haven), three in San Francisco (Alta CA, Aster, and Coi), and at least two more on the way Kim Alter's unnamed Hayes Valley spot, and his "fast food" collaboration with Roy Choi, Loco'l. "I have concluded that the role of executive chef is simply too much to manage with two small children, and a wife who has watched me work 90-hour weeks year after year and would like to have me around a little more," Patterson writes.
Patterson has for well over a decade been at the forefront of modernizing California cuisine beyond the Chez Panisse era, and along with Kinch has helped to mentor and launch the careers of a bevy of younger chefs.
The forward-thinking restaurant not only has played a key role in redefining California cuisine for the modern era, but it has helped popularize countless culinary movements here vegetable-centric haute cuisine, tasting menus, foraging, bespoke pottery and a lack of traditional “luxury” ingredients all while grooming a legion of the area’s top chefs: Evan and Sarah Rich, Brett Cooper, James Syhabout, Jake Godby, Bill Corbett and Carlos Salgado, among others.
Patterson has also become an accomplished writer and evangelist for the "New California" cuisine, if you will, famously writing an essay in the New York Times in 2005 titled "To the Moon, Alice?" that denounced the "tyranny" of the simple, Cal-Med, farm-to-table aesthetic popularized by Alice Waters. He wrote, "so deeply embedded is the mythology of Ms. Waters’s Chez Panisse in the DNA of local food culture that it threatens to smother stylistic diversity and extinguish the creativity that it originally sought to spark." The ensuing years, of course, particularly with the SF restaurant boom of the last half-decade, have proven his words prescient as many chefs, including those he's trained, have broken free of that mold.
And the innovation that landed him in Modernist Cuisine? The incorporation of aroma, via an essential oil (grapefruit) dabbed on the hand, in enhancing the experience of a dessert.
Patterson says as of next year he'll be devoting more time to the Loco'l project, which will open its flagship location at 57 Taylor Street, serving burgers and other stuff with prices between $2 and $6.
You can hear him talk about the project in the video below.