Shopping at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a family affair for chef Robbie Lewis. After 19 years in the Bay Area restaurant scene, including stints at Boulevard, 42 Degrees, Stars, Rubicon, Jardinière and Bacar, Robbie is now the Executive Chef at Oracle, where he is implementing CSA programs on all their “campuses” and introducing a range of other ideas centered around local and seasonal food. So it’s no wonder that nourishing the two most important people in his life -- son Dante and daughter Marcella - involves bringing them to the farmers market, where they can pick out their own farm fresh ingredients.
Robbie counts friend and mentor Traci Des Jardins as one of his biggest influences. The two first worked together at Rubicon and when Traci opened Jardinière she brought Robbie on as her sous-chef. He later took over the role of Executive chef, earning the restaurant a 3.5 star review, and a rising star chef award for himself. Robbie says he loves the flexibility and schedule he has with his current position at Oracle. He also has a chance to experiment; he creates menus influenced by his travels throughout Europe, the great local produce of the Bay Area, and the classical techniques he honed under Des Jardins’ wing.
I shopped the market with Dante, Marcella and Robbie Lewis recently and have never seen two kids more invested in the family’s dinner menu. These kids are bonafide vegetable junkies; they chose wild arugula, escarole, bunches of red carrots and stalks of Brussels sprouts to take home. Robbie was encouraging, and only occasionally stopped them to provide insight on, say how to choose the best apples or to ask questions like, “how should we prepare those squash blossoms?”
As the kids munched on fresh dill pickles from Glashoff Farms and tasted everything from borage to Black Spanish radishes at Heirloom Organics, Robbie caught up with some other chefs at the market. The trio planned to take their market bounty home and whip up a seasonally-inspired Saturday night dinner. An event that has become something of a tradition in the Lewis household.