After opening one of San Francisco's most popular pasta and pizza spots, Flour + Water, Thomas McNaughton developed a masochistic schedule, opening Central Kitchen and Salumeria and beginning a four-season cookbook, all in the same year. And it seems the schedule hasn't dulled the blade: 7x7 Magazine has already called Central Kitchen "the new cuisine of the Bay Area." And just try getting a reservation after 5:30.
Now, McNaughton runs the block at 20th and Harrison, with three businesses, a test kitchen and an army of followers. This week, the young chef will step out of the kitchen to rub elbows with diners at SF Chefs, San Francisco's largest food event. HuffPost SF sat down with McNaughton to talk the event, his future and why food TV isn't what cooking is all about.
So Central Kitchen, Salumeria and a cookbook all at the same time. Sounds like a big year. It hasn't been dull.
Are you just going to keep expanding? No. NO. [Laughs.]
What made you decide to do all of this at once? After Flour + Water we always had the salumeria in mind, but it was actually the physical space here that dictated the other pieces of the puzzle. [Salumeria and Central Kitchen are housed within the same building.] I come from a more refined dining background so I always wanted something slightly more elevated than Flour + Water. Thus, Central Kitchen.
Tell me about your background. Are you from San Francisco? I'm from South Jersey. I've worked in Europe, but I left cooking school to work for Roland Passot at La Folie. I was only planning on staying here a year. That was in 2002.
Would you say that being here has influenced your cooking? Definitely. I've formed relationships with producers, farmers and the culinary community that are very important to me. It's not just picking up a phone and the food shows up. A lot of our food is raised specifically for us. It's pretty unique to be able to sustain yourself on that system year-round. That would be impossible in some place like South Jersey or New York.
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