Awesometown. (Nopa, San Francisco)

I smell like smoke and onions and garlic. My arms ache, and my right knee is swollen. Tiny cuts dot my fingers, and my tattoo has new purple accents, thanks to some new burns.

Its the happiest ive been in a long time.

About a year ago, the GM at PAV asked me what I thought the best restaurant in town was. I think he was trying to get a feel for where the managements priorities were at. Most gave four stars as their answer. I said Nopa.

Nopa, short for "North of the Panhandle" is a five minute drive from my house. They serve almost exclusively local, oraganic, and seasonal produce. "The chart" is huge piece of construction paper in the office there, detailing the 40+ farmers and various markets the restaurant visits weekly. I've been going there since they opened, as they serve dinner until 1am for the full menu. I wrote in my old blog about their burger, and about how I thought it was the best ive ever eaten. It felt (and feels) like home.

This past December I was eating there, and a manager approached me and asked if he could give the chefs business card. He asked me to give him a call about a sous position. I did. We met a couple of times, I did a trail, and accepted the job.

These past few weeks i've been at Nopa at 7am...learning all the recipes, prep, and seeing the transition into dinner. Tonight I make the switch to nights. I feel like a kid before Christmas. Like the cooks there say, "Awesometown."

Sous vide and hydrocolloids have been put on hold for a bit. Wood burning grills and ovens are the next tools to learn. Everything is done slowly....everything is tasted, and everyone gets a say. It's a happy place to be.

Much more to come, and thanks to everyone who asked where I was going and wished me well. Pictures below of Nopa are via Flickr.

Part of the Nopa mural.

Lights over the community table.

The kitchen.


On leaving, some tough questions, and more notes.


Four years. Shot out of a cannon, into a shoebox kitchen, then shot into what might be the biggest/best equipped kitchen in San Francisco. Long days that turned into nights, thousands of plates, and a thousand more burns. My time at VDV/PAV, for now, is/are the defining moments of my career so far. It's strange to be saying now "At my old work..." and "I used to work with this guy...."

Thinking about things that happen in four years, the first that comes to mind is maturing....growth. Four years is how long it takes an olympian to train. And there were moments where I felt like a Soviet era gymnast, from the physical and mental stress. Dues have been paid.

When I made my notice, word spread quickly. Some could barely hide their joy...little bubble clouds saying "Fuck yeah! He's leaving!" were almost visible. Others screamed in horror. I got alot of questions about where I was going, and when...and alot of questions about if it felt "weird." My first response was no. Things were not weird.
Then things got weird.

Realizing you're doing something for the last time, with people you regard as family can give you a funny feeling. My last days drive to work was especially melancholy. Walking out for the last time, which I thought would be with a bounce in my step, was instead a slow walk...taking it all in for the last time. Fortunately my last Saturday night was a big one...followed by an intimate Sunday. There were drinks, and toasts, and hugs. My Chef bought me some nice gifts, and I got a card signed by all my friends. It felt good...because there was almost immediate closure. Pictures are here. I'm not sure im done writing about it, but I can say I love my new job, and I think there will be some completely different content on this site.

And to everyone that I said "We're not done yet." to, I really meant that.
Pictures below.

Some Tough Questions. Or not so tough.

  • Sous vide. WTF? Is it cooking? Does induction, a circulator, and a pacojet make for a stale, sterile work environment? If it does is that a bad thing?
  • What do you do when you leave a restaurant and get a flood of cooks, dishwashers, and waiters that want to come with you?
  • 45 minute temperature controlled eggs. Why dont they sell? Why don't they sell when topped with truffles and chives? Why do people think eggs are only appropriate at breakfast?
  • Speaking of eggs, why is it that pork, fish, and beef are all served at breakfast, but chicken meat isn't?
  • "Side of tomatoes." What do you think it means when that gets called in a kitchen? (Hint: It doesn't refer to produce.)
  • Recycling of old employees: does this happen everywhere?


  • To the guy in the turtleneck at Liverpool Lil's. Sorry dude, I didn't really like your turtleneck. I was just having a laugh.
  • To the Liverpool Lil's staff in general: Sorry about those two chairs I smashed.
  • To that cranky lady that hangs out at Liverpool Lil's. Fuck off.
  • To Ginger: You deserve better.
  • To young cooks: when you ask me "what else does this dish need?," the answer is usually "nothing."
  • To guys: There is something called the Annie Hall test to help you determine if the girl you're dating is the right one for you. It's simple. Show her Annie Hall. If she likes it, marry her.
  • To Beijing: Fuck dude, time to get your shit together and clean up. I don't want to watch two weeks of track and field with all the athletes in smog masks.
  • To everyone at Laura's party: That shit was fun. I got really drunk.
  • To everyone at Circa Restaurant, where we ate the night of Laura's birthday: Top Chef winner or not, that food is way corny.
  • To Friday and Saturday nights. You are better spent cooking in a restaurant.
  • Slow food is good food.

Some of the last food I ever made for PAV.

Saturday nights covers, and magnum of champagne.

That cream pie had bananas and chocolate, and weighed 2 pounds.

Last day mimosa, and "The scream."

It's over. Moments before my last walk out of the building.

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