San Francisco has more than its fair share of talented chefs. But while some bask in the limelight, others don’t always receive the accolades they deserve. These are just a few of the chefs that have caught our attention, in particular for their focus on either fresh produce or seafood. Some are in new roles and others are quietly continuing to make significant creative contributions at their respective restaurants. Here are San Francisco chefs to watch – and dine with.
Angela Salvatore, Executive Pastry Chef, Waterbar
Angela Salvatore grew up in the suburbs of Chicago watching her dad and grandfather working the woks at her grandparent’s Chinese restaurant while the ladies cut vegetables and packed orders. After a broadcast journalism degree and a foray into television production overseas, she craved a more hands-on artistic pursuit. In 2005, she moved to Napa Valley to attend the baking and pastry program at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Upon graduation, she worked at Model Bakery. She then moved to San Francisco to work for Kara’s Cupcakes. In 2008, Salvatore joined Loretta Keller and Charles Phan’s team to open The Moss Room restaurant and Academy Café at the California Academy of Sciences. Salvatore took the helm as executive pastry chef in 2010. Excited by the prospect of working with the legendary Emily Luchetti, Angela joined the Waterbar team as pastry chef in 2012.
“My influences come from the Bay Area. The art, culture, and landscape influence the aesthetics and geography, and myriad ethnicities influence the flavors. My style leans toward straightforward because we are spoiled by California’s bountiful produce, and when you cook with the most seasonal, ripe ingredients, those items speak for themselves without needing much adulteration. I try to use an artist’s eye for those final strokes of presentation. At the end of the day, dessert is simple. It’s merely a punctuation mark at the end of a meal.”
John Griffiths, Executive Chef, Bluestem Brasserie
Griffiths studied at Schoolcraft College in Michigan; focusing on culinary arts, he then began working with James Beard Award-winning chef Takashi Yaghashi at Tribute Restaurant in Farmington Hills. From there, John spent time in different kitchens across the country including as opening executive chef at Larry Forgione’s legendary An American Place in St. Louis. In early 2013, he moved to Sacramento to lead The Kitchen Restaurant. John moved to the Bay Area in 2014 to join the team at The Advocate in Berkley as the opening executive chef before taking over as executive chef at Bluestem Brasserie in 2016.
“When creating the menu at Bluestem, I wanted to embrace a broader Mediterranean palate with some emphasis on vegetable cookery that supports and interplays with a variety of local meats and seafood while not losing sight of our urban location and French heritage of a brasserie. The ingredients drive each component and elevate the entire dish or protein that’s added to it. We are lucky to live in California and have access to local and unique ingredients.”
Kris Toliao, Executive Chef, Cassava
Born in San Francisco, Kris moved to the Philippines at age of 2, came back to Los Angeles at age of 7, and grew up in Los Angeles and Orange County. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Pasadena in 2003 and then worked under Julian Baker at Bicé, Dominic Crenn at Manhattan Country Club, Sumant Pardal at Tiger Lily and then the Beverly Hills Hotel. He moved to San Francisco in 2008 to join Dominiqu Crenn as opening sous chef at Lucé at InterContinental Hotel. In 2010, he staged at Kikunoi in Akasaka, a 2 Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurant. He opened Cassava in 2012.
“I am influenced by Dominique Crenn, and her delicate seasonal flavors from her native Brittany, her way with vegetables and seafood. From Pardal, I learned about Indian spices and combination flavors. From Kikunoi, I delved deeper into vegetable cooking, Japanese cooking techniques, and a style of kitchen operation of no back-/front-of-house separation.”
Rachel Orner, formerly Chef di Cuisine, Delfina
Rachel Orner is a Pennsylvania native who began her culinary career early in life. She was driven into the kitchen by a passion for cooking and her mother’s meals that left something to be desired in the taste and flavor department. She started by making family dinners and then went on to major in Culinary Science at Drexel University, cooking in kitchens across Pennsylvania for the next three years. In fall of 2011, Rachel moved to San Francisco.
“My culinary philosophy is that the best ingredients make the best dishes. I frequent the farmer’s market to select the best of the best. While many of the dishes I cook are traditional, I’m not afraid to use and explore new cooking methods. I believe the best inputs (ingredients, cooking techniques, people) create the best outputs (dishes.) My influences are traditional Italian cooking, and, especially, my father. My dad traveled the world for work and would come home and cook what he ate while abroad. He would experiment and push his kids outside of their culinary comfort zone. That sense of curiosity and exploration has stuck with me.”
Carl Foronda, Executive Chef, 1760
Foronda was raised in San Francisco and Vallejo. He followed his passion and graduated from the CA Culinary Academy in 2004. Carl worked under Kelly Degala and Arnold Pulido at Va de Vi in 2007. He was sous chef at Sushi Ran from 2009, working under the tutelage of Chef Scott Whitman and Yoshi Tome before joining 1760. He started at 1760 as sous chef and became executive chef in 2015.
“Most of the time, my main influence is food itself, particularly how a certain ingredient is used in different places in the world, and how it is used by different people. I always cook when there is a certain overload of emotion, but the results are always different and very particular to how I feel. I would describe my cooking style as very West Coast. Whatever the Pacific Ocean touches breathes life into my style. I think the dishes that reflect me the most are my crudos, as well as my Brussels sprouts with fish sauce-lime emulsion and pepitas.”