At events like SF Chefs, we've noticed again and again that chef David Lawrence has culinary offerings that stand out. His "Soulful American" bites with roots in England and Jamaica include such dishes as shrimp grits and white grits with pesto, and organic skillet fried chicken, with an upscale twist. Lawrence's plates tend to demonstrate how the deep South can cozy up with fresh California produce, using classic French technique.
Since opening in 2007, Lawrence’s restaurant, 1300 on Fillmore, remains a draw for Sunday gospel brunch crowds, as well as those looking for a group dinner or bar snack--the fried chicken or skillet catfish; meaty ribeye; variety of grits and even warm chocolate beignets with coffee soda are almost begging to be shared. Lawrence, a London native, is 1300 on Fillmore’s executive chef and managing partner. He has cooked for royalty and was formally trained in the culinary arts at Westminster College. In 1982, Lawrence joined England's most celebrated and honored culinarians, Albert and Michel Roux, who were definitely considered "celeb chefs" there and were the chef-proprietors of the world-renowned Le Gavroche and the Waterside Inn (at that time, both three-star Michelin restaurants). Lawrence cooked his way through five of their famous restaurants and became a sous chef, in four short years. In 1986, Lawrence became chef de cuisine at Interlude Restaurant in London, which gave him the sweet chance to make meals for none other than the Prince and Princess of Wales; Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon; and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
He left for the U.S. in 1988 in a kismet vacation moment that led to chef de cuisine work with a former Le Gavroche chef named Kurt Graising who was opening 231 Ellsworth Restaurant in San Mateo. Lawrence next landed at the (ornate and beautiful) Carnelian Room and Cityscape restaurants in San Francisco, respectively. While at Cityscape, he created the Chefs for Kids program, which raised thousands of dollars for the Tenderloin After School program. Lawrence is also generous with his time for various local charity events. We caught up in person recently to find out more about his culinary style and career. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.