Foodie Talk: Jonah Rhodehamel
Get to know the executive chef of Oliveto Cafe and Restaurant in Oakland.
We kick off our new weekly foodie profile series with Jonah Rhodehamel, the young chef who has been at the helm of Oliveto's kitchen since November 2010. Located in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, Oliveto is an institution for East Bay foodies thanks to its traditional Italian dishes with an emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients.
1. What inspired you to become a chef?
My mother used to make us a creation she called "snow dogs" consisting of cold hot dogs with cream cheese. I was either going to learn to cook or continue eating snow dogs: I decided to learn to cook.
2. Describe your perfect meal?
Probably eating Goldfish crackers and Mike and Ikes in bed with the lights out. If I had to leave the house, it would be eating sushi at Okoze in the city. Jason, the owner/ chef always does these great omakase menus and has by far the best fish in the Bay Area.
3. What’s your go-to restaurant (other than your own)?
Pho King on E. 14th (Oakland).
4. Is your food philosophy more Anthony Bourdain or Alice Waters?
I'm not sure I know either of their philosophies; I just try to make food taste good.
5. What’s the best cooking advice you ever received?
Know your ingredients.
6. What’s one tip you could give diners about ordering at a restaurant?
Talk to your server about what to order: It is in their best interest to give you the best experience possible, so they will usually point you in the right direction.
7. What’s the weirdest custom order you’ve ever gotten?
These days everyone has an allergy. We recently had a guest come in for our tomato dinners with a nightshade allergy. When they realized how limited their choices were going to be, they quickly decided a little tomato here and there wasn't going to hurt them.
8. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen happen in the kitchen?
Nothing strange EVER happens in kitchens.
9. What do you drink at home: Wine or beer?
Is Four Loko beer?
10. What’s on your playlist when you cook?
Nothing. I like silence.
Oliveto Restaurant and Cafe, 5655 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-5356, oliveto.com. Foodie Talk appears every Tuesday on Diablomag.com. Return next week to get to know another East Bay chef.