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Flavor Profile: Aveline's Casey Thompson

Photo by Aubrie Pick

Thompson—a Top Chef season three finalist—makes her SF debut next week as the chef-partner at Aveline, inside the historic Warwick hotel in Union Square (located next to The European cocktail bar).

Dream soundtrack while cooking: 

The Very Best of Daryl Hall and John Oates. I’m a sucker for the ’80s. 

Favorite food as a kid: 

Chicken-fried steak and gravy…with ketchup. 

Go-to for a good drink:   

Best drinks in the entire Bay Area right now are being made at The Restaurant Bar at Meadowood Napa Valley.

Favorite pairing:   

Cheetos and Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth.

Favorite don't-tell-anyone junk food?

See above.

Happiest food moment:  

A lunch at the base of the Andes Mountains, just outside of Mendoza in Argentina. One of my menu items for Aveline [avocado with marinated leek, pink peppercorn, and a crumpet] was actually inspired by that meal.   

What do you want to be when you grow up?     

5 feet 8 inches.  

What’s the first meal you prepared that made you proud?   

Meal? I can’t remember, but I made
a caramel flan at the age of 13 and nailed it. Destiny.

When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?

When I first started out, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a chef. The long hours, high pressure, and working around big egos were intimidating to me. It wasn’t until I began to truly understand what being a “chef” really meant for me know. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It isn’t at all glamorous, but I am so lucky to know what it is like to be a part of the camaraderie that happens in the kitchen. 

Favorite ingredient:

Lemon. That may seem conventional, but I really use it everywhere. It brightens, transforms, and gives any other ingredient that “pop” that you can swear wasn’t there before you applied the lemon. I have several trees at home and keep them on hand constantly.

Tricks of the trade:

For a green herb puree - blanch, wring out blanching water, and use ice cubes in the blender to get the puree consistency you want. It doesn’t take much and the ice keeps the puree brilliant green.

Best thing you’ve eaten in SF:

Salt and Pepper Crab at R&G Lounge.

What do you make for yourself to eat at home?

I love to cook at home, however, if I am making something for just me - it would probably be a salad. I can never get enough vegetables.

Greatest indulgence:

Eating almost the entire jar of foie gras pate from Bouchon back in the day. I would eat another one today if given the chance.

Motivators:

Food. It’s like dangling a carrot, I want to cook and eat it all.

What would you request for your last meal?

I think I would rather have 2 ice-cold martinis with 3 Castelvetrano olives in each. After that, I would be able to think about what to eat.

Food trend you’re on board with:

I really try not to follow trends (please don’t roll your eyes). I like to think that the restaurant that is doing a particular style of cuinse is doing it because that is what motivates them at the time.

Food trend that needs to die:

Trends.

Motto:

You are only as good as the cook underneath you.

Which living culinary person do you most admire?

Heston Blumenthal.

What most influences your food?

The season.

Favorite midnight snack:

Cheetos.

Who do you most admire?

My grandmother.

Whom do you most like to cook for?

My man and our friends.

In your fridge:

Fresh strawberries, Ojai Pixie tangerines, LOTS of pickles, eggs from Taramasso Ranch, leftover black-eyed peas from Llano Seco Ranch.

Go-to takeout/delivery:

Still searching.

Bay Area restaurants on your list to try:

Saison, Commonwealth, Swan Oyster Depot (I know, I need to get out more)

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:

Crispy (whole) frog chips with a cold Chang Beer by a river while trekking in the jungle near Chiang Mai in Thailand.

Culinary habit you’d most like to kick:

Eating too much.

If you weren't a chef, you'd be….?

An actress on SNL.

Dietary restrictions:

No.

Customer pet peeves:

Not taking a baby out of the restaurant immediately when they begin to cry.

Favorite culinary journey:

Argentina or Thailand.

Describe your kitchen persona in one word.

Controlled.

Favorite local spots:

Tradition in the Tenderloin. Cotogna in Jackson Square.

How far would you travel for a killer meal?

Far. But, luckily, I don’t have to—SF has some killer food.

Strangest customer request:

They don’t want certain items touching on the plate. Whuh?

Most treasured possession:

My Michel Bras Essential Cuisine book.

Greatest professional moment:

Opening Aveline and The European with my friend, colleague and collaborator Adam Wilson.

What’s next?

I take things as they come. Sometimes I look back and can’t believe some of the accomplishments. I am grateful for each and every moment, high or low. I hopefully learn from my mistakes, trust in my opinion and try to relax when I can. That is essentially all that you can do in life. I tell my staff when they are off, “you better come back with a story about something cool you did—and go outside!”