In celebration of Gaggenau and the MICHELIN Guide’s ongoing partnership and commitment to the exploration of culinary culture, the Black Jacket Society of chefs converge ahead of each MICHELIN Guide Ceremony for dinner and conversation. Building off Gaggenau’s Professional Kitchen Principle that cooking equipment must be at the highest level akin to the ingredients chefs use in their dishes, the second dinner, held at Two MICHELIN Star Californios in San Francisco, touches upon the design and passion behind the fine dining experience. A topic which will be explored further in New York this November.
There are few spots that our MICHELIN Guide Inspectors dub a, “divine dining temple,” but Val Cantu’s Californios, the location for Gaggenau’s second fine dining dinner, was the perfect spot as the San Francisco staple has long been a bastion for innovative gastronomy. Building off the success of Gaggenau’s dinner in Miami at One MICHELIN Star elcielo, those in attendance—part of Gaggenau’s Black Jacket Chef society in attendance—read like a list of culinary rock stars. William Bradley of MICHELIN Three Star Addison, Justin Cogley of One MICHELIN Star Aubergine, Tony Esnault of One MICHELIN Star Knife Pleat, Teague Moriarty of One MICHELIN Star Sons & Daughters, and Niki Nakayama of Two MICHELIN Star n/naka tackled the subject of design on and off the plate and its relation to the fine dining experience.
“I've always had an interest in the way that designers compose pieces—whether fashion or the design of a room or space,” says Bradley. For Nakayama, this mindset extends to each touchpoint from the ingredients to the dishware. “We use a mix of local ceramicists and Japanese ceramics to communicate aesthetics found in both [California and Japan],” says Nakayama. “For example, a matcha tea bowl that uses Japanese design but made by a local ceramicist, will have colors of a Los Angeles sunset incorporated into the design.” Similarly, Cogley commissioned a designer to create handmade, ceramic fish to “swim” on the walls of Aubergine. “It made sense to always have Carmel Beach influence our restaurant,” says Cogley. “With the coast's ever changing beauty, our beach’s weather is unpredictable but always fascinating whether sunny or not. I captured this in the blues, greens and browns in the textiles.”
And it’s the personal touches from the Starry crew that raise the bar on the overall experience. “I have a large vitrine of cooking tools that I have been collecting over the years,” says Esnault. “I wanted to share it with our guests, like I did with my friends at home.” Working with partner Yassmin Sarmadi, the duo sought to bring the same warmth and sophistication to the surroundings as the chef provides on the plate. “The mixing of textures in a space lends itself to a richer and more interesting feel,” says Sarmadi. “The same can be said about Tony’s food. He’s always thinking about not only the flavors, but the textures in a dish.” Which led to chefs Esnault and Bradley championing clean food—not using sugar or spices—allowing the true flavors and the season to shine. Adding to this was Moriarty who wants to see more chefs’ visions executed sans substitution for the complete concept to come to life. “Harrison [Cheney’]s cuisine is an ethos of simplicity and focus,” says Moriarty. A clear interpretation of new Nordic, Cheney’s rejiggering of Sons & Daughters goes beyond the kitchen, to the staff, the decor, and the service. “We have a warm and welcoming style of service whilst showing individual personalities,” adds Moriarty. “This is definitely a style of service which is aligned with hospitality in Scandinavia.”
But the heart of the experience is the sense of home that each of the chef’s, their menus, and their restaurants deliver on. Like at each Black Jacket Chef society member’s spots, the feeling of 'dining with us' translated into the dining room at Californios as chefs Jonathan Yao of One MICHELIN Star Kato and Michael Tusk of Three MICHELIN Star and Green Star Quince popped by to chat up Cantu and the other Black Jacket Chef society members. For Cantu, Californios is his home. “Cooking anywhere other than your home base is always a challenge,” says the chef. “When I return to Californios, I’m always excited to be back and ready to express and explore something new.”
Hero image: Adahlia Cole Photography
All photos: Adahlia Cole Photography