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Food Awards 2012

Dig in to this year's top food!


(page 4 of 5)

Hot Chefs

By Adam Cruft

Sunhui Chang
FuseBox, Oakland

What Inspires You?


For Sunhui Chang, kimchee isn’t just fermented veggies. It’s the heart of his new restaurant, FuseBox.

“If I didn’t make my own kimchee, I wouldn’t be able to say I have a Korean restaurant,” he says. “It becomes a part of your culture, then your history, and then a part of your identity.”

Chang learned to cook from his chef mother, growing up in South Korea and Guam. The food-obsessed youngster also loved to watch cooking shows on PBS. That cultural mix shows on the small bites menu—where you’ll find house-made tofu next to Korean barbecue next to fried chicken wings. And plenty of kimchee.    

“Making kimchee is one of the few times where I lose myself in thought—and sometimes, inspiration will hit.”


2311A Magnolia St., Oakland, (510) 444-3100, fuseboxoakland.com

By Adam Cruft

Kim Alter
Haven, Oakland

What Inspires You?

Fresh Produce

Yes, all chefs say their food is inspired by the local produce, but Kim Alter is serious. She shops farmers markets every workday, sometimes twice. It’s a passion she developed at famed Manresa, which sources all produce from its own farm.

“Working on a farm, planting stuff myself, I realized how much effort goes into every radish put on a plate. I want to respect that, make sure that radish shines.”


It’s a product-driven approach, combined with Alter’s accessible style, that produces dishes such as a hearty bavette steak accented with fresh heirloom tomatoes in the summer or a comforting shepherd’s pie filled with seasonal root vegetables in winter.  

“I like to say that our food is delicate yet rustic.”

44 Webster St., Oakland, (510) 663-4440, havenoakland.com.


By Adam CruftSteve Jaramillo
Metro, Lafayette

What Inspires You?


Steve Jaramillo never wanted to be a chef growing up.

“I wanted to be a writer, originally.”


But with few job prospects—and limited success after publishing three novels in the late ’90s—he found refuge in Berkeley kitchens. Jaramillo soon discovered that he had a knack for cooking, landing a gig as top chef at Lalime’s. He also found he enjoyed it.

“Being a chef is similarly dynamic and creative [to writing]. I have like 200 cookbooks that I love to leaf through and conceptualize different dishes.”

Now at Metro, he emphasizes, in true Berkeley fashion, dishes using just a few high-quality ingredients.

So, are his writing days over? Well, Jaramillo is actually halfway through a new novel—this one set in a restaurant.

3524 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-4422, metrolafayette.com.


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