2016 San Francisco Rising Star Chef Evan Allumbaugh of flour + water

2016 San Francisco Rising Star Chef Evan Allumbaugh of flour + water
May 2016

Evan Allumbaugh was cooking for his parents by the time he was 11, but never had an inkling that it would become his career. Even after some years of making shrimp scampi, a pasta class with his mother in Tuscany, and a gig at an Italian restaurant during high school, it still took a little parental shove for Allumbaugh to find his true path. 

Two years into the architecture program at Arizona State University, Allumbaugh was miserable. At his mother’s encouragement, he switched gears and enrolled at the San Diego Culinary Institute. Fortuitously, his parents had hosted a foreign exchange student whose family printed menus for Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy. So after graduation, Allumbaugh staged at the two Michelin-starred Villa Crespia, cooking regional Italian food for 16 hours a day and developing a closeness to the cuisine and his fellow cooks.

Returning to the States, Allumbaugh spent a year making pasta in Scottsdale before leaving for California to work for Michael Mina and then Thomas McNaughton at flour + water, where he added butchery and charcuterie to his repertoire. Finding his voice, Allumbaugh rapidly ascended to chef de cuisine. In 2015, he was named to the “Zagat 30 Under 30” list of the best young innovative chefs in San Francisco. Allumbaugh participates in the CUESA Market to Table Demo series, which is free to the public, and from his post at one of the city’s most loved restaurants, he supports young chefs and his community of peers through a monthly salon and potluck meet-up. 

Interview with San Francisco Rising Star Evan Allumbaugh of Flour + Water

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start?
Evan Allumbaugh:
I remember making my parents shrimp scampi with homemade pasta when I was 12. I went to Tuscany when I was 16 with my mom, and we took a pasta class. I was like ‘Wow, I can actually do this.’ So I came home and started working at a super small Italian restaurant. It was more of a passion than a career at that point. 

I went to Arizona State University to study architecture, and after two years I realized that I was going to be miserable, so I gave culinary school a shot. I went to San Diego Culinary Institute. There were 10 kids in my class; it was super intimate and hands-on, and everything has really linked up and made sense since then. 

I did an externship in Italy when I graduated at Villa Crespi. I didn’t speak any Italian, and the chef didn’t speak any English. So we would hang out and not speak, but the kitchen was full of people from around the world. I worked 16 hours a day, 5 days a week. I was cooking Southern Italian food in Northern Italy, with influences from the Middle East. 

SK: Who’s your mentor?
Thomas McNaughton, Matthew Sigler (the previous CDC here), and Craig Polignanio, who I worked with at Stone Hill Tavern.

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
We do a potluck with 40 local chefs so that we can see each other. Everyone brings a dish and pitches in. The community here is awesome, everybody cares about each other. I also do demos at the Farmer’s Market, Saturdays at 11am. 

SK: Why did you start the potluck?
There are few opportunities to get other members of the culinary community together outside of the Saturday Farmers Market, so the chefs’ potluck was born on a Sunday evening in November 2015 as a way for everyone to bond over a shared meal. Best part is we’re industry, so everybody cleans up.

SK: What’s the most epic dish that’s been shared, and who made it?
Our favorite thus far isn’t what you would think! For the first event, a chef brought chicken wings from Sang Tung. However, I do think one of the dishes I brought was pretty rad: a water buffalo bolognese lasagna—pretty awesome if I do say so myself :) 

SK: What’s the most rewarding thing that’s happened from the dinners so far?
In the time I have worked at flour + water, I have seen people rise up and go on to work for truly incredible properties across the city. To see the next generation of chefs come into their own and find their path is truly inspiring.

SK: What’s your five year plan?
I’m in the process of getting a HACCP plan for the restaurant group’s charcuterie program. One day I want to own a restaurant within this group. I’d love to have something like what Quince is to Cotogna, not necessarily 2 Michelin Stars but still refined, with tasting menu courses. And eventually have a restaurant like flour + water.