Chefs Jeff Banker and Lori Baker + Jackson Banker. Photo credit: Craig Lee
The savory and sweet finds at San Francisco's Baker & Banker quickly catapulted the space into a must-visit for food lovers. Opened in late 2009 in Pacific Heights, the bakery slash restaurant is in an old apothecary and is the lovechild of husband and wife team Chef Jeff Banker and Pastry Chef Lori Banker, who together have over thirty years cooking experience and have been married for ten years.
San Francisco Examiner's Patricia Unterman noted Baker & Banker's "small, changing menu of gently imaginative dishes characterized by big, voluptuous flavor," and the San Francisco Chronicle's Michael Bauer gave the restaurant a three star review in 2010 and included it in the Chronicle Top 100 List of Restaurants that same year.
Lori Baker has worked at EOS, Home restaurant, Slow Club, Gordon's House of Fine Eats, Bizou, Postrio, Bix and Fifth Floor. Chef Baker also staged at Hotel Metropole in Brussels as well as L'Angolo Dolce in Lucca, Italy. She was most recently a professor of pastry at The California Culinary Academy and is a graduate of Johnson and Wales.
Jeff Banker's early stints include Patina Los Angeles and Postrio--more on the Postrio love connection in a bit. He worked at Acme Chophouse, Bix, Home and staged at Lucas Carton in Paris while attending Le Cordon Bleu on a scholarship awarded by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). The couple said they both have also filled in at their friends’ restaurants NOPA and Delfina. Bay Area Bites caught up with Jeff Banker just in time for Valentine's Day. They live in the Sunset District.
What are you baking and serving up for Valentine's Day?
We are creating some unique bakery goods special for Valentine's Day including: Mexican hot chocolate crackle cookies, raspberry Linzer heart sandwich cookies, strawberry Champagne cupcakes, which are champagne-soaked yellow cake with strawberry frosting, red hot red velvet cupcakes and handwritten "Hostess" cupcakes with salted caramel.
Valentine's Treats from Baker & Banker. Photo credit: Craig Lee
Also on the sweet menu is: vanilla bean cheesecake, with a chocolate wafer crust, and raspberry hearts swirled in; and conversation heart cakes that are Devil's food cake with Grand Marnier ganache.
Hugs and Kisses Heart Cakes. Photo credit: Craig Lee
And… Passion fruit cheesecakes with guava caramel, champagne cake truffles, jalapeno caramels and chocolate covered bacon.
What are your Valentine's Day restaurant favorites?
It’s hard to find a more romantic dining room than Fleur de Lys -- the food is decadent and very Valentine's Day appropriate -- the French do romance best! Bix is also a great space with an amazing menu.
What are your favorite spots to shop for food?
Fatted Calf is an awesome place to get fresh meat. We also religiously shop at the Marin Farmers' Market for ingredients for the restaurant -- the produce is so fresh and there is such a great selection of goods. I actually visit there every Thursday. Finally, for something a bit more exotic, the Richmond New May Wah Supermarket, an Asian Market on Clement and 7th, is an amazing source to find unusual ingredients.
What are your favorite eating and drinking spots?
What are your favorite local Mom & Pop joints?
We love the modern spin of Mom & Pop joints that are taking off here in the city. For example, eVe restaurant in Berkeley is also a husband and wife team who are doing it all themselves. They have a really artistic touch to the dishes on their menu and we love the intimate setting and food. Also, Sons & Daughters in Nob Hill is an interesting place -- the chefs/owners Teague and Matt are two young guys living the dream of opening their own restaurant. It's inspiring to see fellow chefs venturing out on their own and having full autonomy to create and share the food they love.
What are your favorite date nightspots?
At the moment, our favorite date spot is home. Since Jackson's arrival, there is something truly wonderful about being home and making a home cooked meal for the family in the house. We are at the restaurant or bakery nearly seven days a week -- so to be able to stay at home and use the kitchen is a treat!
What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
The foie gras duck stuffed sandwich at Naked Lunch. Amazing.
How did you two meet, and how long have you been together, etc.?
We both worked at Postrio around the same time. We had a mutual friend who worked there and he set us up on a blind date. He is the pastry chef at Bix now and is still our best friend. We have been married for nearly ten years. [Our baby] Jackson is 4 months old and his name is Jackson Banker.
Does Jackson have any favorite foods yet?
He’s still a bit too young -- breast milk is still his favorite but we're expecting him to be quite the foodie growing up in a bakery and restaurant.
Where are you from?
I am from Orange County and Lori is from Cincinnati.
What's new on the horizon?
This past weekend we had the crew from Unique Sweets come and film us for a day. It was an amazing experience. You’ll be able to see Lori's tantalizing desserts have their close up on the Cooking Channel this spring.