Meet the Chef
Andy Phillips goes live at Va de Vi.
Photography by Paige Hermreck
Va de Vi means “about the wine” for good reason: The Walnut Creek restaurant offers some 150 bottles. But Va de Vi is and has been as much “about the food” since chef Kelly Degala’s global small-plates menu debuted in 2004. This playful concept has remained constant, and Andy Phillips, who took the reins in February, is spicing it up.
Phillips favors the bold flavors of Spain and Morocco, pushing the edge of wine-friendly foods to the limit. He graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 2005, and earned his chops at Esin, Wente, and most recently, Gravity in San Francisco.
Q: What’s an insider tip for diners?
A: Most weeks, the menu changes on Wednesday. Come in then to sample the new items. If you sit at the kitchen counter, you can ask questions and get tips on cooking.
Q: What’s your favorite small plate?
A: My answer changes 50 times a year, but I love the ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms quick fried in a light tempura batter. The plate is simple and delicate, yet full of complex flavors.
Q: Why is Va de Vi so popular?
A: Some places are fun. Others have great eclectic food. Some have a wonderful wine or bar program. Va de Vi does each well, without compromising the others.
Q: You seem to be attracted to wine-focused restaurants.
A: I love cooking with different kinds of wine. Not just any white or red will do. I want to add nuances of acid, tannin, or fruit to the food. Scallops might call for crisp Sauvignon Blanc. A meaty fish lends itself to buttery Chardonnay.
Q: What’s up for summer?
A: Summer is definitely our busy season, and I’ve got to keep my feet on the ground. But I want a menu that’s alive and fluid. I really love stone fruit, so you’ll see them in sweet and savory dishes.
Q: Your wife, Amy, was a pastry chef. How does she describe your cooking style?
A: Both fresh and classic. She likes how I updated the classic strawberry shortcake by tossing the berries with tarragon instead of mint and using lemon pound cake for the biscuit.
Recipe: Andy Phillips’“Cherry” Pasta
Here’s a simple summer pasta (that is, if you don’t slice your own tagliatelle as shown above), highlighting ripe cherry tomatoes, lightly roasted to “intensify their flavor and sweetness.” Start the dish by tossing cherry tomatoes sliced lengthwise with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Lay the tomatoes skin-side down (so you don’t lose the juice) on a sheet pan, sprinkle with fresh herbs such as tarragon or thyme, and cook in a 250-degree oven for 20–25 minutes. When ready to serve, boil tagliatelle while sautéeing shallots and sweet yellow corn in olive oil just to soften. Add a shot of white wine, reduce slightly, swirl in a little cold butter (and a little pasta water, if necessary), and gently toss with the pasta, a pinch of chile flakes, and—finally—the roasted tomatoes.
1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 979-0100, vadevi.com.