You gotta like a chef who’s willing to show a little leg. OK, so it actually took a little sweet-talking on my part to get Mitchell Rosenthal—one of the three Town Hall (townhallsf.com) “jackasses” (as Mitch, his brother Steven Ronsenthal and Doug Washington describe themselves on their temporary website) who just opened Salt House to show me the tattoo covering his thigh of a samurai chef holding a battle ax dripping with blood that says “Bon Appetit.” He had it done in 91, at Goldfield’s (goldfieldstattoosf.com) on Broadway. Snaking down from his shoulder to his wrist is another done by Tim Lehi at Black Heart Tattoo (blackhearttattoosf.com) of two roosters fighting. It incorporates a line from Muddy Waters: “Working on the hot line, baby, all day and night,” which is appropriate considering Mitch has been sweating over the stoves at Salt House (salthousesf.com) since the day it opened.
Although executive chef Robert Levy (whose food I first enjoyed at Calistoga Ranch, the super schmancy wine country resort) started just before the restaurant opened, Mitch has continued to work the line, usually 12 plus–hour shifts. “At first I had to because there wasn’t enough staff,” he says. “Being 46 and cooking like that was pretty painful, but 5 weeks into it now, I kind of like it. I really believe in the act of cooking. When chefs stop, they lose their edge a little bit.”
As for the rather hard-core nature of his tattoos? Mitch, who comes across as a pretty mellow guy despite being a first degree Akido black belt, says, “I feel like I’ve always cooked sort of bold, not super subtle. I like things sort of lively.”