With her debut cookbook San Francisco Chef’s Table, local author Carolyn Jung brings together recipes from more than 50 of the top restaurants in the Bay Area.
For Jung, a former food editor for the San Jose Mercury News and a blogger at Food Gal, it’s a celebration of the diversity in cuisine, technique and ingredients that make the Bay Area home to some of the best restaurants in the world. Readers can expect to find an eclectic mix of recipes, which, despite the book’s title, are also culled from chefs and restaurants scattered along the peninsula, the East Bay and South Bay.
“Essentially I wanted restaurants that were favorites of locals and also had enough going for them that they would draw tourists visiting the city,” Jung says.
“I wanted [the book] to appeal to the way we all eat today,” she says. “People in the Bay Area have varying appetites—they’re always looking for something good, they like to try different things and a lot of people these days also have food restrictions whether because of medical conditions or their own personal preferences.”
For this reason, it was important to Jung to include some vegetarian-friendly recipes, but above all she wanted each featured dish to be accessible to readers of all levels of cooking experience.
“I kind of stayed away from extremely high end, molecular gastronomy-type restaurants,” she says. “Let’s face it, you and I and most other people don’t do that type of cooking at home.”
Most chefs were happy to oblige with recipes inspired by the dishes served at their restaurants, but in some instances Jung put in special requests (Chef Bradley Ogden’s famous butterscotch pudding and the decadent chocolate mudslide cookie from Prospect’s Rodney Cerdan are two favorites).
Dungeness Crab with Citrus Salad from Coqueta in San Francisco (recipe below). Photo by Craig Lee from San Francisco Chef’s Table.
Although her cookbook puts an emphasis on San Francisco, Jung says she is pleased at how fine dining has flourished outside of the City in recent years, due in part to a trickle-down effect from the SF epicenter. Places that never used to be considered culinary destinations, such as Los Gatos and Mountain View, have enjoyed a gastronomic renaissance of sorts, becoming more contemporary, modern and trendy. They’ve earned the Michelin stars to prove it but, of course, the economic backbone provided by Silicon Valley doesn’t hurt either.
“I think whether workers at high tech companies start out as foodies, they definitely end up being one because of the caliber of food that these cafeterias have now,” Jung says, referencing on-site food programs at several tech offices in the Bay Area.
Ever since Google got the ball rolling in the early 2000s as the first tech campus to have an executive chef (Chef Charlie Ayers, who has since gone to open Calafia Café and Market in Palo Alto), one could say that the tech and food industries have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. Jung cites several other crossover examples, such as former Google marketing exec Lisa Rhorer who left the company to become a sommelier and now owns Los Gatos restaurants Cin-Cin and Centonove, the fruitful business partnership between Chef Ogden and Facebook’s Chris Kelly, and how Chef Will Pacio’s former roommate at Stanford (Stephen Chau of Google Maps fame) was one of the investors that got Spice Kit off the ground.
“Whether it’s out in the open or not, there is a lot of money either from people who used to work in tech now going on to open their own food businesses or people still working in tech who invest in food companies and restaurants behind the scenes.”
Change in the tech industry comes swiftly and as a writer from a newspaper background, Jung has experienced many of the effects firsthand. Regarding the effects of online publishing on food coverage, she is quick to note both the positives and negatives.
“The good part is that there’s a lot of stuff out there, and if you want to find something out, [the information] is readily available,” Jung says. “The bad part is trying to wend your way through all of this stuff that’s out there and trying to figure out what is accurate and fair. Can I trust this source? Will this recipe work?”
In spite of the competitive aspect online writing introduced, it brought about new opportunities for Jung, too. Her blog, Food Gal, is soon to celebrate its sixth year on the web, and even through all the demands that the book assignment brought on, Jung still delivered fresh, original content to readers each week.
Although she admits to being an avid cook herself, Jung was coy when asked if she had plans to publish her own recipes in the near future. In the meantime, there is one thing that she encourages everyone to do: preserve family recipes.
“If there’s [a dish] you love, have your mom write it down,” Jung says. “Have your uncle, your grandmother write it down, because the day will come when you’ll be glad you have that.”
For the author, the meals she shared with her family as a child still resonate strongly with her, becoming themes in various articles she’s produced over the years.
“As a child you take them for granted and you think, ‘Oh this is just a dish mom makes every Thursday or whatever,’ and it’s only when you’re older that you truly miss it because either your parents are no longer there, or you’ve moved away and you don’t get that dish anymore,” Jung Says. “You realize how special it was.”
RECIPE: Dungeness Crab with Citrus Salad from Coqueta
(Serves 2 as an Appetizer)
1∕3 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons pickling spice
1 lemon, quartered
1 (1 ½ –2-pound) live Dungeness crab
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Piment d’Espelette
1 Cara Cara or navel orange
1 Meyer lemon
1 cup arugula
Heat a charcoal, wood, or gas grill to medium-hot.
Bring 2 gallons of water with the kosher salt, pickling spice, and quartered lemon to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Bring back to a rolling boil, set a timer for 8 minutes, and drop in the crab. Remove the crab and turn it upside down on a cookie sheet to let cool for 15 minutes.
Pull the back shell off the crab. (There is a space on the back end of crab between the body and shell to pull it apart.) Discard the contents of the inside of the shell. Rinse the shell with cool water and set aside. Brush the crab with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Place crab on the grill, allowing to cook for 4–5 minutes on each side. The shell should be lightly toasted on both sides. Remove crab and, while still warm, gently crack the legs with a nutcracker, leaving each leg intact. Place on a serving platter. Brush with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and season both sides with Piment d’Espelette. Brush the shell lid with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and place it back on top of the crab right side up.
For the salad:
Slice the orange and lemon in half from end to end and cut off the ends. Slice into 1/8-inch slices. Put in a bowl and dress with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.
Place the arugula on top of the citrus and gently mix. Place a scoop of citrus salad on top of the crab and serve.
This dish is perfect with a Spanish Albariño or Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
Carolyn Jung will be at Williams-Sonoma Union Square on January 29 at 6pm for a book signing with Chef Adam Dulye of Abbot’s Cellar also on hand for a demo of his recipe that appears in the book.