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We Wanna Be Friends With Bocanova's Rick Hackett

Michigan native Rick Hackett graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and learned the principles of nouvelle cuisine at acclaimed Washington DC restaurant Le Pavillon before moving to the Bay Area in 1979 and leaving his mark on the local restaurant world.

In SF Hackett was swept up in the American culinary revolution, working at such establishments as Chez Panisse, Bay Wolf, Oliveto, Postrio, and Acme Bread. In 1992, he and his wife Meredith Melville reopened the fabled Enrico's in North Beach as a supper club featuring live music and California-Mediterranean cuisine. Eventually he opened MarketBar in the Ferry Building. It was at MarketBar that Hackett began developing the concept that would become Bocanova—partly inspired by the “family meals” he and his mostly Latino culinary team would eat at the restaurant.

Hackett and his wife embarked on a culinary trip through South America to further immerse in the region’s cuisines, relishing in the influences of other cultures, from Chinese and Japanese food in Peru to Italian fare in Argentina. Opening the doors to Bocanova in 2009, Hackett mixes Pan-American cuisine with the bounty of the Bay Area. 

Now Hackettt is branching out from his roots to open a second restaurant, conveniently next door, this week. Jack's Oyster Bar & Fish House melds the traditional East Coast oyster bar with a distinctly Californian menu.

“I’m always looking to create timeless restaurants in both design and dishes,” he says. “Our overall philosophy is to use quality ingredients, focusing on sustainable seafood from the Pacific. We’re doing traditional dishes—chowders, lobster rolls, fish & chips—with our own twist while showcasing influences from San Francisco’s seafood culture.”

In addition to his role as restaurateur, Hackett actively supports his community, including hosting fundraisers for the Oakland school system and volunteering with the Sprouts Cooking Club, teaching children ages 8 to 14. When he’s not at the restaurant, Hacket can be found relaxing with a good book or playing tennis. We caught up with the chef to ask him seven essential questions about his life in Oakland. 

1. What neighborhood do you currently call home? Would you ever move or are you happy in your 'hood?  

Haddon Hill and we are totally happy there. 

2. What's your hands-down, absolute favorite thing to eat in the East Bay?

There’s so much, but what recently impressed me in the last six months is the steak dish at Box and Bells 

3. What's your perfect night on the town?

It always revolves around dinner. I love to go out and hear music – especially jazz. Yoshi’s has some great music. Never dancing, though. 

4. When you need a low-key afternoon, where do you go for down time?

Home!

5. What's your favorite place to go on a day trip from Oakland?

There’s so many but Point Reyes is my favorite. 

6. Quick-fire round:

Burrito or Burger?

Burger.

Fenton's or Ici Ice Cream?

Ici Ice Cream

Lake Merritt or Lake Temescal?

Lake Merritt

The Paramount or The Fox Theater?   

The Paramount

Bakesale Betty's or Brown Sugar Kitchen? 

Brown Sugar Kitchen

First Fridays or The Oakland Museum?

The Oakland Museum

Shopping on Telegraph or in Temescal? 

I’m not much of a shopper, but if I were I would go to Temescal.

7. Three words that describe your life in Oakland?

Diversity. Great Neighbors. Edgy.