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Flavor Profile: Brett Cooper

Photo by Aubrie Pick 

The former Outerlands chef takes his toque to the other side of town, co-cheffing at the soon-to-open Tenderloin spot Huxley. His forthcoming (as yet unnamed) restaurant, due in the Mission later this year, will serve creative Californian cuisine.

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

When I was around 20 and realized that I had really enjoyed working in a kitchen for the last couple years. That's when I decided to move to SF.

Favorite ingredient to work with and why? 

My favorite ingredient changes almost daily but right now some are freshly made barley miso, wild fennel pollen, aged umeboshi [Japanese salt plums], tomatoes, and Carolina gold rice.

Most overrated ingredient? 

Garnishes that don't taste like anything.

Tricks of the trade? 

Season your food in stages to develop flavor.

Best thing you’ve eaten in San Francisco?

Recently? The salumi at Trou Normand. In life? A Tartine baguette.

What do you make for yourself to eat at home?

Gringo tacos. White corn taco shells, ground beef with packaged taco seasoning, shredded cheddar, iceberg lettuce, and Cholula hot sauce. 

What would you request for your last meal? 

Nopa’s burger. Medium rare. Gruyère, bacon.

Food trend you’re on board with?

The subtle incorporation of Japanese ingredients like brown rice vinegar and ume plum.

Favorite watering holes?

Alta for cocktails, Nopa for a sazerac or wine, Brass Tacks for just about anything.

Favorite don’t-tell-anyone junk food?

Shavings of house-made butter.

Favorite culinary journey?

Thailand—it changed my entire perception of street food.

Dream soundtrack/album while cooking? 

Flaming Lips, LCD Soundsystem, Stereolab for a mellow night; 80's/90's punk for the weekends.

Greatest indulgence? 

Sushi at Akiko's restaurant, or sushi and too much yakitori and whiskey at Ippuku.

What motivates you? 

My wife and peers, ingredients, the weather, where I'm cooking.

Food trend that needs to die? 

Overuse of sous vide cooking.

Motto? 

Make the right decision.

Which living culinary person do you most admire? 

I have a deep admiration for so many cooks and mentors in the Bay Area and the world. It would be impossible to choose only one.

Favorite food as a kid? 

Pickles.

What most influences your food? 

The farms and purveyors I work with on a daily basis.

Favorite midnight snack? 

Pizza.

Whom do you most like to cook for? 

My family, friends, and peers. It's also an amazing feeling cooking for someone for the first time who is really excited.

What’s in your refrigerator? 

Condiments and fermentation experiments mostly, haha. Coconut water.

Go-to takeout? 

Yummy Yummy for pho.

Bay Area restaurants on your list? 

The Dock, Nico, Stones Throw.

Favorite pairing? 

Vin Jaune with anything.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten? 

Undercooked sweetbreads, unintentionally. 

Culinary habit you’d most like to kick? 

Misplaced tools.

If you weren't a chef, you'd be….? 

Traveling the world as a nonprofessional food journalist. That or farming.

Any dietary restrictions? 

No.

Happiest food moment? 

Cooking a special dinner for Charlie Trotter at Rubicon when I was a young sous chef. 

Customer pet peeves? 

Preconceived expectations. If you don't like it, that's fine, just be open-minded to the experience.

Describe your kitchen persona in one word. 

Focused. Sometimes I look way too serious.

Favorite neighborhood? 

Mine—NoPa/Western Addition/Alamo. Daily rituals may include The Mill, Nopa, and 4505 BBQ and Burgers.

This article was published in 7x7's September 2014 issue. Click here to subscribe.