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Food Secrets of Chef/Restaurateur/Writer Daniel Patterson

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Daniel Patterson Photo by Michele Hood
Photo Credit: Michele Hood

Daniel Patterson is a self-taught chef well known to eaters and readers for his food, expanding Bay Area restaurant group, and writing. His fine dining Coi Restaurant (@coirestaurant) opened in 2006 in San Francisco, and won two Michelin stars in 2008. Frank Bruni of the New York Times named Coi as a top ten new restaurant outside of New York, and the San Francisco Chronicle awarded Coi four stars. Patterson opened a more casual concept called Il Cane Rosso in the Ferry Building in 2009. Plum opened in Oakland last year. On December 1st, Patterson reported on his Twitter feed that he was the soup cook "at least for a little while" for the Plum lunch debut. Bay Area Bites caught up with Patterson soon after that via phone interview.

In 1994 Patterson opened Babette's, his first restaurant, in Sonoma, at the age of 25. Soon after, Food & Wine Magazine named him "Best New Chef" in 1997 and San Francisco Focus awarded him the title of "Rising Star Chef" the same year. In 2000, Daniel opened Elisabeth Daniel in San Francisco, which was nominated "Best New Restaurant" by the James Beard Foundation in 2001. He was named "Chef of the Year" by San Francisco Magazine in 2007.

With natural perfumer Mandy Aftel (aftelier.com), he wrote "Aroma: the Magic of Essential Oils in Food and Fragrance" in 2004. His bio says that "It was the first cookbook to explain the use of essential oils in cooking and the connection of the sense of smell to emotion and memory in this context."

Patterson reported that he and his family cook at home "a lot" and that he and his wife used to go out much more often before they had a child. And yes, his young son loves to eat chicken skin. As for his food favorites, Patterson paused. "I'm not that kinda guy. I order what I'm in the mood for. It doesn't typically follow patterns."


Patterson wants to visit these restaurants and said it's "My wish list, for when I get a day off":

The chef and his wife like to dine out near their home in the the East Bay. "Most of the places we go our geared to (our son)." First stops are courtesy of Charlie Hallowell: "Usually, we get pizza from Pizzaiolo or Boot & Shoe. I love their salads, and love the drinks at both... the Pizzaiolo head bartender is terrific."

Another family stop: Russell & Allison Moore's Camino Restaurant, which "is geographically close to where we live." Patterson will generally order "whatever they have on the menu."

In the City, Patterson's first outing of choice is the Cal-Med-Moroccan fine dining hotspot Aziza, run by Chef Mourad Lahlou: "Let (Chef) Mourad cook."

Next up are organic wood-fired comfort food at Nopa and organic-sustainable Mexican food with a local bent at Nopalito. Patterson said both restaurants are "sensational."

For Southern-Italian food and wine, A16 is another San Francisco favorite. "We used to live around the corner… we don't go to the city so much anymore."

James Freeman's Blue Bottle "has an incredible space in the middle of the city. Cakes too. It's really special."

Patterson enjoys eating Humphry Slocombe ice cream. Humphry's Jake Godby used to do pastry work at Coi.

June Taylor Preserves hit the sweet spot: "We always have some of these at home."

Bar Agricole "is fantastic. Thad Vogler is a favorite."

"I love the drinks at Slanted Door. Eric Atkins has been there a long time. He'll make stuff and it's always amazing."

Having a family and running three restaurants seem to leave Patterson with little free time. He said that "I've done a lot of book events this year. Reading time is nonexistent. I work from eight in the morning to midnight. (So) I read in concentrated bursts. Or to research."

He did cite Harold McGee's new Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes book (The Penguin Press, $35), calling it "fantastic." Daniel has written for the New York Times, Food & Wine, London Financial Times and San Francisco Magazine. Readers can look forward to Patterson's second book, which he is currently working on. It will be a Coi cookbook.

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