300 Grove St.
Antoinette Bruno: Why did
you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Robbie Lewis: I have always
had that wanderlust and I felt that cooking would facilitate
traveling and experiencing the world.
AB: Do you feel that attending
culinary school was important to the development of your skills
as a chef? Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs?
RL: I am a culinary school
drop-out. Like anything else in life, you get out of it what
you put into it. The best learning environment for me was in
a kitchen filled with a focused team. Why pay to learn when
you can get paid to learn?
AB: Can you talk about
RL: From Traci Des Jardins,
opening chef of Rubicon and chef/owner of Jardinière,
I learned technique and refinement. She has a cerebral approach
to combinations, and a logical, philosophical concept of seasonality
and sustainability. From James Moffat of the Slow Club
and 42 Degrees, I learned composition and freestyle.
As they were both chefs/owners when I worked with them, there
was an added dynamic to what they saw and what their concerns
were on a daily basis, both front and back of the house.
AB: Are there any unsung
ingredients that everyone should know about? What are they?
RL: There really aren't
many "unsung" ingredients left. There is a shortage
of things to cook that aren't "endangered." I think
a lot of us are pressed to cook creatively, but we are also
being mindful of the state of the planet and its future.
AB: What is your most
indispensable kitchen tool?
RL: I'm a fiend for spoons.
I mine flea markets and estate sales looking for them. They
are the cooks’ Christmas presents.
AB: Is there a culinary
technique that you have either created or use in an unusual
RL: I'm a traditionalist
when it comes to technique. I enjoy slow cooking techniques
- confit, braising and escabeche. I am starting to experiment
with slow cooking with an immersion heater.
AB: What advice would
you give to aspiring young chefs?
RL: Travel makes a difference
- good cooks become great cooks through travel.
AB: What is your favorite
question to ask during an interview for a potential new line
RL: Do you know what
you’re getting yourself into? What is your favorite
AB: Is there a place
that you want to travel to for culinary researching purposes?
Why there? Which place that you’ve already been to has
had the greatest impact on your menus?
RL: Rural Japan - I am
ignorant of the cuisine of that region, and I like its complex
simplicity and its aesthetic. I've lived and worked in Italy
and it clarified for me the concept of "less is more."
AB: What are your favorite restaurants in San Francisco?
What is the most memorable meal that you’ve ever had?
RL: I enjoy INO Sushi
in Japantown and Burma Super Star. I'm a fan of small
houses. I like their soul.
My most positive memorable meal was at Gordon Ramsay's
at The Claridge in London. Precise cuisine and coddling service.
There’s always great food in San Sebastian.
AB: What trends do you
see emerging in the restaurant industry right now?
RL: More attention is
being paid to the origins of foodstuffs, the specific farms
and ranches, et al. There is also an increasing usage of technologically-based
AB: Where do you see
yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?
RL: I truly am happiest
when I am overseas, so I would like to run a B&B in Europe
somewhere. I'm not picky; I'm happy anywhere. The Algarve,
Corsica, Liguria, Dalmatia. I’d lead cooking tours,
and drive fanny-pack laden tourists around in my Fiat minibus!
JARDINIÈRE | San Francisco
Thirteen years ago Robbie Lewis moved to San Francisco from Arkansas to attend The California Culinary Academy and happened to meet Traci Des Jardins at a wine auction. They became friends and she offered him a position at Rubicon where she was then opening chef. This fateful encounter was the start of a Bay Area culinary career that also took him to Boulevard, 42 Degrees, The Village Pub, and Jardinière – all as part of the opening teams. In sync with Chef Des Jardins’ commitment to using local sustainable products as much as possible, Lewis has maintained Jardinière’s reputation for delicious, beautifully executed food. While continuing Des Jardins’ French Californian classics, he has added a number of Italian dishes, informed by a year spent cooking at an agriturismo villa in Tuscany, including handmade charcuterie and pastas.
Maine Diver Scallops with Housemade Pancetta,
Meyer Lemon, Roast Garlic-Parsley Nage
Chef Robbie Lewis of Jardinière – San Francisco,
Adapted by StarChefs.com
Yield: 6 Servings
- 1 bunch parsley, stemmed
Roasted Garlic Nage:
- 1 head garlic, peeled
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 head celery
- 2 leeks, washed
- 1 onion
- 1 bulb fennel
- 1 head garlic, unpeeled
- ½ bunch thyme
- Parsley stems
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 bottle white wine
- 2 cups olive oil
- 1 Meyer lemon, juiced
Potato and Pancetta Mixture:
- 5 medium fingerling potatoes
- 1 sprig thyme
- 4 cipollini onions
- Olive oil
- 1 sprigs thyme
- ¼ pound pancetta
- 1 Meyer lemon, thinly sliced
- ½ bunch basil, roughly chopped
- ½ bunch mint, roughly chopped
- Parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 pound Maine diver scallops
- Salt and pepper to season
For Parsley Purée:
Pick leaves off parsley. Reserve stems for nage and leaves for herb salad. Blanch leaves in boiling salted water. Remove and shock in ice water. Remove and squeeze parsley of excess water. Puree until smooth in blender, adding water to facilitate. Reserve.
For Roasted Garlic Nage:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place garlic in oven-proof dish. Cover garlic in olive oil. Add ½ cup water. Cover dish with aluminum foil. Roast in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain. Reserve oil and puree garlic until smooth. To make a nage, roughly chop celery, leeks, onion, fennel, and garlic. Sweat vegetables with reserved garlic oil until tender. Add sachet of thyme sprigs, parsley stems, bay leaf, and wine. Bring to boil. Simmer until reduced by ½. Add ½ gallon water. Reduce again by ½. Strain and reserve liquid. In blender, combine ½ cup roasted garlic puree and ½ cup water. Turn on blender and slowly add olive oil. Slowly add nage to achieve desired consistency. Add juice of lemon, season with salt and pepper.
For Potato and Pancetta Mixture:
Bring fingerling potatoes to a boil in salted water. Add thyme. Turn down and simmer until potatoes are easily pierced with knife. Remove from water and cool. Peel and slice into half moons. Chop cippolini onions into quarters. In medium sauté pan, sauté onions in olive oil and thyme until tender. Let cool. Cut pancetta into lardons and render in sauté pan. Let cool and chop finely.
Pan-fry fingerling potatoes until browned. Drain oil and season to taste; add chopped pancetta, cippolini onions, and lemon slices. Add basil, mint, and parsley to mixture; season again with salt and pepper.
Season scallops with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet and sear scallops until they are medium rare.
To Assemble and Serve:
Gently warm roasted garlic nage. Whisk parsley purée into warmed garlic nage. Spoon sauce in middle of plate. Place scallops in sauce, surround with potatoes and pancetta.
Reserve Chardonnay, Vineyard 8, Napa Valley, California, 2001