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Weekly Dish: Chez Panisse Hires New Chef

Chez Panisse gets a new chef; options abound for East Bay home chefs; Lark Creek Walnut Creek's new family-style menus; and more in this week's Dish!


It looks like Chez Panisse is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a new executive chef. According to Tablehopper, long-time sous chef Jerome Waag has been promoted to replace David Tanis, who departed a couple months ago. The previous structure at the famed Berkeley restaurant is to have two executive chefs take the lead for six months each, and according to Inside Scoop, that will stay the same with Waag (who actually started at Chez Panisse as a busboy) splitting time with co-chef Jean-Pierre Moulléno. 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 548-5525, chezpanisse.com.

This whole "healthy" thing apparently is here to stay. Another little eatery centered around offering healthy meals has sprung up, this time in San Ramon. Local residents Tara and Roy Gilad wil debut Vitality Bowls on Monday, October 10, at 211 Market Place off Bollinger Canyon Road. The concept is low-fat/low-calorie bowls and smoothies made from the açaí berry, the Amazon fruit reputed to have numerous health benefits, primarily because it's packed with antioxidants. Says Tara, "We wanted to bring affordable, healthy, low-fat, and delicious food to our hometown.” The Gilads will offer a variety of healthy toppings, such as bananas, strawberries, bee pollen, flax seeds, goji berries, honey, and more. And if that doesn't float your boat, they'll be serving homemade paninis as well. Check 'em out early on Monday because they're giving out the first 200 açaí bowls for free. 211 Market Place, San Ramon, vitalitybowls.com

Over in Alamo, the New Forli Restaurant has added a new Italian voice to the mix, bringing on Giuseppe De Maio as corporate chef. Previously a chef at Ristorante Raphael in Berkeley and trained at the Motescalari School of Culinary art in Florence, De Maio will bring a little Northern Italian flair with weekly specials that will augment the restaurant's standard menu, according to co-owners Gabriele Davanzante and Russ Belleci. De Maio will serve as corporate chef for all three of their restaurants, including the New Forli in Alamo, Dante Ristorante in Puerta Vallarta, and the soon to open Amerigo restaurant in North Carolina. 3160 Danville Blvd., Alamo, (925) 820-1711, forlialamo.com.

Kitchen on Fire co-founder Olivier SaidHome chefs are seeing their options expand. The popular Kitchen on Fire located on Shattuck Ave in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto is expanding with plans to open a second location at 2940 7th Street in West Berkeley. Located inside a restaurant equipment supply store, the new school will have two kitchens and a top-of-the-line array of equipment. It is scheduled to open in mid-November, according to Berkeleyside.

Speaking of cooking classes, I had a chance to catch up with Leslie Pease, who along with her sister Lisa Evaristo, is starting the new Back to the Table cooking school and production kitchen in Lafayette. Pease, who was waiting to meet her contractor at the soon-to-be cooking school location at 271 Lafayette Circle, says they're targeting March to debut classes. The original plan was to hire only instructors who were non-professional, home chefs with distinct areas of expertise, however Pease told me they've been getting interest from professional chefs, so there will likely be more of a mix now. Classes are still coming together—they hope to have the complete schedule on the website by January—but Pease did say they would always be doing a Thursday night class in which students go to the weekly Lafayette farmers market and create dinner based on the ingredients they find. The sisters are also tentatively planning to offer classes on canning and making fresh baby food, as well as a class designed specifically to teach basic cooking skills for teenagers going away to college. Pease said the production kitchen is getting plenty of inquiries from caterers, local restaurants, and especially individuals who own their own business making jams, cookies, and other food products. "We've been getting a lot of interest," she says. backtothetablecookingschool.com

And for the ultimate home chef dream come true, check out the new Guest Chef set to debut on October 28 on College Avenue in Rockridge. It's a pretty fascinating concept: Every two weeks, Guest Chef will play host to a new aspiring chef who will get a chance to run his or her own restaurant for a 14-day trial run. It's risk-free: Participants don't need to pay rent, just supply the raw ingredients and man-power at the fully equipped restaurant that seats about 20 diners. “But what sets it apart from other restaurants is that the cooks and menu change every two weeks,” says Scott Cameron, who came up with the idea with fellow real estate developer Jerry Boddum. ”This is a logical extension for the folks in the food truck industry, but it is also a possibility for the dedicated foodie who would like to try to take the next step.” It'll kick off on October 28 with guest chefs from the Oakland Fire Department and proceeds going to charity. For more details and to apply yourself, go to theguestchef.net.

Photo by Nicholas H., yelp.comLark Creek Walnut Creek's chef Scott Wall just kicked off his new Sunnyside family-style menu to take advantage of the warm Indian Summer evenings (pay no attention to today's rain, it's supposed to be sunny and in the 70s by this weekend...). The concept is that one group of 8-10 people can pick between a selection of smoked meats (baby back ribs with paprika dry rub, Marin Sun Farms leg of lamb, Sterling beef brisket, mixed Caggiano sausages), as well as starters, salads, and desserts to be enjoyed family-style on the restaurant's outdoor patio. $45 per person, call ahead for reservations. 1360 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-1234, larkcreek.com.

Chef Habib Jacifi will be dishing out a seven, count 'em, seven-course wine taster's dinner this Sunday, October 9 at his popular Bravo Bistro on the Concord/Pleasant Hill border. It's $75 with seatings at 5:30, 6, 6:30, and 7 p.m. CLICK HERE to check out the whole menu, which includes foie gras, day boat scallops, and braised short ribs, to count just three courses. Call for reservations: 1050 Contra Costa Blvd., Concord, (925) 363-4443, thebravobistro.com.

Some cool Uptown restaurants will be participating in the 2nd Annual Uptown Oakland Block Party & Back to School Fundraiser this Saturday, October 8, to benefit the Oakland public schools. $30 will get you complimentary cocktails (Make Westing, Bar Dogwood, Somar Bar) and food specials at places like Picán, Luka's Tap Room, and a sushi sampler at Ozumo. The event lasts from 5 to 8 p.m., CLICK HERE to puchase tickets.

Please e-mail me with dining news at dish@maildiablo.com

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Seven-course wine taster's dinner at Bravo Bistro

Amuse Bouch
Duo of Pate de Foie Gras & Mixed Vegetable Tureen served with Brandy Cherry Sauce
Pol Clement Brut, France        

Bisque di shrimp
Chateau de la Bretesche, Vigneron

Grilled Asparagus with warm brie and crispy pancetta
Sauvignon Blanc

Intermezzo, Sorbet

Pan Seared Day Boat Scallops wrapped in bacon with cauliflower puree
Ventana Pinot Nior, Monterey, CA

Rack of Lamb
Grilled New Zealand Rack of Lamb with green pea puree
Reserve De L’aube, Syrah- Merlot, France

Braised Short Ribs
Cabernet slow cooked beef ribs with saffron risotto cake
R Collection Field Blend, California    

Dessert Sampler
Chocolate Fondant, Berry Tart & Napoleon
Dessert Wine

Happy Hour Bar & Bites at
The Cooperage

Monday through Friday
3pm – 5:30pm


This isn’t your typical happy hour. This quintessential neighborhood spot offers high-quality craft cocktails on tap and tasty bites. Menu features: $10 cocktails on tap, $5 select beer & wine, $1 oysters, $7 bacon cheeseburger sliders, $7 crispy beer battered shrimp sliders, $9 sashimi-grade ahi tuna tartare. 

32 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette
​Reservations: www.thecooperagelafayette.com or 925.298.5915

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