It’s a petite-sized spot, yet shows mighty potential. Maverick restaurant has spent the last seven years cranking out various forms of American food in the Mission -- at times high-brow and other times with more of a decidedly Southern and comfy bent. Owners Mike Pierce and executive chef Scott Youkilis brought on and promoted Emmanel Eng, 33, as executive chef in recent months. Eng’s artistic eye is clear in the refreshed menu and clean yet playfully creative plating style. He considers Nancy Oakes a big influencer and mentor in his culinary life and talked his way into a weekly stage that quickly led to full-time line cook work at Indigo restaurant. The Noe Valley resident cooked under Oakes at Boulevard, and has had stints at Sons & Daughters, Foreign Cinema, Quince and Aqua. Eng grew up in Portland, Oregon and studied at the Rhode Island School of Design. One of the reasons he was drawn to the Bay Area was to work for dot-coms (more on that soon) but cooking, a long-term girlfriend, bicycling and designing high-end bicycles are why he stayed.
Bay Area Bites caught up with Eng via phone interview.
How did you get interested in cooking?
I went to the Rhode Island School of Design so it’s hard to say how one led to the other. In high school I was really into design and art. The correlation was working with my hands, which helped me get into cooking.
Becoming a cook as a career was more a product of moving to San Francisco. During college I went to Sweden and was a backpacker. I got a job at a cafeteria: washing lettuce, slicing tomatoes, and making things like a 50-pound pile of mashed potatoes. It was not glamorous but it was fun. That put me in the world of food production: mundane food but I had to serve it. I found a lot of satisfaction seeing people enjoy and eat the food and liked having the “Jewish mom/Asian grandma” syndrome of wanting to take care of people. When I moved to San Francisco, I was doing design for a dot-com and was laid off. Since I was always eating at a lot of nice places, a friend said “Why not do a stage?”