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Flavor Profile: 20th Century Cafe's Michelle Polzine

Michelle Polzine

Photo by Michael Schindler

Credentials: 20th Century Cafe chef-owner
News Flash: The former Range pastry chef opened her first brick-and-mortar ode to retro style and Eastern European fare in Hayes Valley in June.

When did you first know you wanted to be a pastry chef?
When I realized how deliciously glamorous it is. No kidding.

Favorite ingredient?
Eggs! They are full of endless possibilities.

Best thing you’ve eaten in SF?
Raviolo (egg and ricotta) at Quince with browned butter and shaved white truffles.

Dream playlist while baking?
Melvins “Zodiac”; The Four Clefs “I Like Pie, I like Cake”; The Ex & Tom Cora “State of Shock”; Al Bowlly with The Ray Noble Orchestra “Make Yourself A Happiness Pie”; Donald Byrd “Hank’s Tune”.

What do you make for yourself to eat at home?
Omelettes, quesadillas, salads, and hot chocolate.

Greatest indulgence?
Going to every showing at the film noir festival.

What motivates you?
Sugar, caffeine, fear.

What would you request for your last meal?
Insanely spicy Szechuan tasting menu.

Who are your heroes?
Lucille Ball, MFK Fischer, Exene Cervenka.

What’s in your refrigerator?
Four poulet rouge chickens, dill, sour cream, sauerkraut, cherries, almond milk, yeast, starter, yogurt, asparagus, apricot and Damson plum jam, Seville orange marmalade, almond, hazelnut and walnut oils, parmesan, cheddar and goat cheeses, candied Meyer lemons, cat food, a sad looking kohlrabi, and one Russian honey cake.

Where do you go for a good drink and what do you order?
Smuggler’s Cove and I always order one (or two) too many.

Go-to takeout/delivery?
Mission Chinese.

Bay Area restaurants on your list to try?
Saison, Benu, and Atelier Crenn. You see where this is going.

Favorite pairing?
Coffee and cake!

Favorite don't-tell-anyone junk food?
It’s really embarrassing, but I hate junk food. I can really go for a malted from Whiz Burger though! I hope that’s naughty enough for you.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
Raw pate. Wrong.

If you weren't a chef, you'd be….?
A bag lady.

Any dietary restrictions?
Recently joined the sad club of the glutards.

Customer pet peeves?
Yelping.

Describe your kitchen persona in one word.
Noisy.

Favorite SF neighborhood + 3 favorite spots?
My home, the Mission. La Palma Mexicatessen, Los Panchos, and the Knockout.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Calm.

How far would you travel for a killer meal? Where to?
Back to Budapest.

Strangest customer request?
Nothing really. I’ve been back of house for 21 years.

Proudest professional moment?
When the first person not related to me purchased a share in my company.

This article was published in 7x7's July/August issue. Click here to subscribe.