Chef Jennifer Biesty. Photo credit: Cris Molina
Chef Jennifer Biesty rocketed to national fame when she was a cheftestant on Season 4 of Top Chef and a Star Chefs Rising Star in 2007. She is currently the Executive Chef of Scala's Bistro and the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Biesty’s Bay Area culinary career developed under Loretta Keller, the Chef/Owner of the now shuttered Bizou Restaurant and current COCO500. Biesty cooked with Keller at benefit dinner events for The James Beard House, The Master’s of Food & Wine and Taste of the Nation. She also worked at Jardinière, with Chef Traci des Jardins. Biesty trained at the CIA Hyde Park at the young age of eighteen, and worked at NYC’s Aquavit and March restaurants, respectively. She worked in London at the River Café, alongside uber-talent chefs Ruth Rodgers, Rose Gray and Jamie Oliver. The Brooklyn native (“where the food is all about the ingredients”) lives in San Francisco with her girlfriend, Sara Delman. Biesty and Delman met at COCO500. Bay Area Bites caught up with Biesty to talk about her favorite food and drink spots.
Where do you live?
We live in the Potrero foothills, which is a nice way of saying “on the wrong side of the mission tracks.” Sara and I have been together for more than three years and love living in the Mission. There are so many great restaurants and shops. And it’s such a colorful neighborhood!
Where do you like to shop for food?
Rainbow Grocery: The produce there far surpasses any other market, and to stay eco-friendly, you can refill oil, vinegar, soap, lotions, honey, sugar, pasta, you name it. It’s great.
But Rainbow doesn’t offer meat, so for that I go to Avedano’s meats in Bernal Heights. It’s a beloved neighborhood butcher shop that has great tacos and Ryan Farr’s hot dogs! I like that is more Euro-style and you create a relationship with your shopkeepers and merchants.
The New May Wah market on Clement! In the heart of a little Chinatown, it’s just too fun to go there. They offer things like bone-in pork belly, whole fish, frogs, bulk spices, all the Asian sauces you could ask for and Asian beer, wine and sake. And when you need a bit of agar agar or basil seeds they have it all too.
Alemany Farmers’ Market: It feels like community. It is cheap and has great variety. Fresh flowers that are so affordable.
Where do you go on your nights off?
Bar Agricole. Amazing space and delicious cocktails. I love the Scotch egg there.
Zero Zero is a fun place to go for cocktails and crudo -- I love the yuzu sidecar. Oh, and the pizza and soft–serve there is another one of my guilty pleasures.
Hog and Rocks is another great place -- a big selection of oysters from the east coast, which reminds me of home!
How about your favorite local Mom & Pop joints?
Torta Gorda: on 24th for a good simple sandwich or some Puebla specialties.
Plow: has the best fried egg sandwich, although I wouldn’t call them mom and pop because the couple that own it are so young but it is a great breakfast and lunch place in sunny Potrero Hill.
Haltun Mayan Cuisine: for poc-chuc de puerco. Great food and reasonable. They have a good happy hour deal. I love the Panuchos & salbutos.
Where do you go for date night?
Universal Café: I was the chef there in 2003 and love the feel of that little restaurant. Sara and I like to go there often because they change the menu often but they also have things you can count on, like a delicious flatbread and a nice charred steak.
Ino Sushi. It’s in the Japantown mall. Great fried smelt roll and everything else is good too!
Oh, and Blue Plate is always fantastic for date night.
What is your guiltiest local food pleasure?
I crave poutine, but since luckily you can’t really get it around here I just make it for family meal at my restaurant. I love tacos and taco trucks! I frequent the one on Treat and 23rd -- Gallo Giro. Also, the tempura at Sanruku.
Any news on projects we should know about?
Honestly being the chef of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel is all consuming and is a big enough project for me currently. But I do have plans on the back burner to be reveled at a later date!
We’ll stay tuned.