We’re hardly surprised to see a San Francisco chef made the annual Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef list: A Bay Area-based cook has made the cut eight out of the last ten years, and winners include some of SF’s favorite chefs, including Craig Stoll (Delfina) and Daniel Patterson (Coi). This year, Myth executive chef Sean O’Brien is the city’s top toque, though he’s hardly a newcomer to the scene. Texan-born O’Brien, 38, first gained acclaim as executive sous chef at Gary Danko, though his long career includes time behind the stoves at Acquerello, The Ritz Carlton Dining Room and Fifth Floor.
Fresh from the Food and Wine awards party in New York City, O’Brien answered a few of my questions:
Do you have a favorite place in the city for low-end dining?
Dim Sum at Joy Luck Place in San Mateo (88 E 4th Ave San Mateo, (650) 343-6988), where I live.
What’s your pick at the other end of the spectrum—high-end eats?
Joel Huff at Silks at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
What’s your favorite dish on Myth’s menu?
Sweetbreads [ed note: Myth’s menu currently has "Seared Sweetbreads" with bacon, quail egg, toast and beech mushrooms.]
And your favorite ingredient to work with?
Pork…belly, bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, butt, caul fat, feet, ears, tails….[ed note: Sean, I think we’re going to get along just fine.]
What’s your advice for young cooks (i.e. how do they become the next Sean O’Brien)?
Work harder and smarter than the cook next to you, know the station [ed note: that’s fancy kitchen speak for the area where something is prepared—grill, sauté, garde manger…] before it becomes available, know the chef’s pet peeves*, work as if you’re the chef/owner, make menu suggestions, suggest ways to save money to justify your raise request….
What were the highlights of the F&W awards?
The cocktail party at (F&W Editor-in-Chief) Dana Cowin’s apartment overlooking NYC….and the food! Blue Hill, Zupa, Degustation….and seeing (local boy and former Campton Place chef) Daniel Humm. We miss him and his food.
If F&W’s Best New Chefs was like America’s Next Top Model and you got to share your victory with another SF chef, who would you choose?
Sharing is great, but I don’t want to overshadow anyone.
The Food & Wine festival in Aspen in June (and the 800 “bites” I have to prepare), which comes right before my dinner at the James Beard House in New York on June 19th.
*At press time I had not heard back from chef O'Brien regarding his pet peeves.