A-16 | San Francisco
After graduating from Wesleyan with a major in music, Christophe Hille took a job flipping burgers at a local burger joint. From that moment on he was hooked, and he went straight to the New England Culinary Institute. Hille honed his French technique at Le Clos de la Violette in Aix-en-Provence before joining San Francisco powerhouse kitchens including Campton Place and Charles Nob Hill. Upon opening up A16, named for the autostrada connecting Rome and Naples, Hille gained immediate attention for its authentic Neapolitan pizza – it sports the perfect ratio of freshly pureed tomato sauce, thin (but not too thin) crust, fresh mozzarella and a delicate smattering of toppings. To create the perfect pie, Chef Hille earned certification as a pizzaiolo in southern Italy. But his other menu items are equally deserving of praise. His rustic dishes from the Campania region– slow- cooked, braised dishes and hand-made pastas– are pitch perfect. Perhaps what’s most compelling about Hille is the depth of his training that enables him to hit right at the nexus of high brow and low brow tastes.
Tomato Caponata with Tuna Conserva, Capers, Basil and Dried Bread
Chef Christophe Hille of A-16 – San Francisco, CA
Adapted by StarChefs.com
Yield: 8 Antipasti Servings
- 1 quart ripe red tomatoes, cut into large chunks
- Salt to taste
- 2 Tablespoons chopped salt-packed capers
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup best quality canned tuna
- 12 basil leaves
- 2 cups dried bread chunks
Place tomatoes in a large mixing bowl and season with salt. Add the chopped capers, vinegar, chili flakes and olive oil. Mix and allow to stand for a few hours at room temperature. Five minutes before serving, add the tuna, basil and bread, mixing well so that the bread absorbs the liquid. Adjust seasoning and serve.
AB: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created or use in an unusual way?
CH: Zucchini salad – we slice raw zucchini into thick slices, salt it and let it rest. It sweats and the salt “cooks” it.
AB: What advice would you give to aspiring young chefs?
CH: Cook food that you would like to eat.
AB: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
CH: Do you appreciate this kind of food or do you prefer fine dining?
AB: Is there a place that you want to travel to for culinary researching purposes, and which place that you’ve already been to has had the greatest impact on your menus?
CH: I just spent 2 weeks in Japan. I like home-style Yakatori cooking. I want to go to India – it is food I like eating, but I know nothing about how it is created.
AB: What are your favorite restaurants in San Francisco? What is the most memorable meal that you’ve ever had?
CH: Tampopo for Japanese home-style cuisine. And Thai House Express has the best Thai food in San Francisco.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry right now?
CH: Lots of pizzerias – this town is going back into a regional Italian direction.
AB: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
CH: In 10 years I’d like to be making my own cheese.