2016 San Francisco Rising Star Chef Brandon Rice of Rich Table

2016 San Francisco Rising Star Chef Brandon Rice of Rich Table
May 2016

Before he could reach the top shelf of the pantry, Brandon Rice was cooking dinner for his family. When his mother took over his grandfather’s flower shop in Roanoke, Virginia, 7-year-old Rice started down a path that would turn into a career. He found preparing meals for loved ones rewarding, but his entry into the world of professional cooking was more of a punishment.   

At 13, Rice borrowed a golf cart (without permission) and crashed it. To afford the lawyer fees, his parents forced him to take a job cooking at the nursing home his faher owned. The punishment turned into a pleasure, which carried Rice on to a fine dining restaurant in Roanoke, before he took off for the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. 

After an externship at Daniel and another at high-volume, seasonal Toppers on Nantucket, Rice graduated and moved to Boston to work with future mentor Ken Oringer at Clio. After rising to sous chef, Rice took his talents to Europe, staging at Quique Dacosta and Noma. Returning stateside and to Clio, he dug in for two more years, and also took a life-changing trip to Japan. Then, like many Oringer protégés, Rice moved to San Francisco, working for Daniel Patterson at Coi, before finding a home with Rising Stars alums Evan and Sarah Rich at Rich Table. There he’s combining his varied influences and always cooking as if the guest were family.  


Interview with San Francisco Rising Star Brandon Rice of Rich Table

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start?
Brandon Rice:
I started cooking with my mother when I was three. My grandfather owns a flower shop in Roanoke, and when my mother took that over, I started cooking dinner for my family every night at about 7 or 8 years old. I love the reward of making others happy.

TWhen I was 13, I took a golf cart wihtout permission from a country club and then crashed it. My parents made me get a job to pay the lawyer fees and I started cooking at a nursing home. From there, I started at the Culinary Institute of America in 2005 and staged at Daniel. I'm really glad I went there, it was a great experience. I did an externship at Toppers in Nantucket, too. Then I moved to Boston and worked for Ken Oringer at Clio for 2 years, going through every station. I worked at NOMA, got married and went back to Clio for another 2 years. 

SK: Who are your mentors? 
Ken Oringer, Andres Grundy, Daniel Patterson, and Evan Rich. I did the reunion dinner at Clio and it was awesome: 19 chefs, 19 courses. It was the farewell dinner before Ken closed it. 

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
I like going to the markets and developing relationships with my colleagues there. Because my restaurant has an open kitchen, it has kind of forced me to meet all of the people who come to the restaurant, so I've had some cool relationships with diners as well. There's one couple that comes every Thursday and I cook them a special dinner off the menu. I can test things out on them.

SK: What is the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
Getting people to do what I need them to do, exactly my way. To convey my desires to them is very difficult; people have different ways of doing things. Learning to communicate in that way is part of becoming a good chef. 

SK: What's your five year plan?
 I want to continue growing with this group of people. This menu describe me and why I love cooking.