But at San Francisco’s Studio Gourmet, a monthly culinary talk show, foodies spend an intimate night with Bay Area chefs where they get to know the minds behind the menu. The event, hosted by Brad Lev, begins with a cooking demonstration, followed by the chef’s interview and a food tasting. While still a new project, Lev has already featured local celebrity chefs like Gary Danko’s Martin Brock, SPQR’s Matthew Accarrino – and this month, will feature Jeff Banker and Lori Baker of Baker & Banker.You’ve tasted their food – perhaps even left a glowing Yelp review about their restaurant, or snapped photos of their dishes on your camera phone. But many times, diners rarely catch a glimpse of the chefs that create and craft their food.
The interviews, which have been likened to Inside the Actor’s Studio, pry deep into each guest chef’s history: from life defining moments to cooking inspirations. Since the setup follows a Q&A format, The Local Dish thought we’d turn the tables on Lev by asking him to answer some questions.
The Local Dish: Why do you think it’s important that diners understand the people behind the food?
Brad Lev: To me, chefs are like artists. The plate is their canvas and the ingredients, their tools. […] You can give the same five ingredients to five different chefs and you will get five totally different dishes at the end. To me, hearing the stories and experiences from the chefs creates a personal connection between the chef and the guest, and you will get a better understanding of why they do the things that they do.
Right now, Studio Gourmet is being hosted once a month – how do you envision this project growing?
BL: I would like to get it to a point where we do it at least twice a month, maybe more. I would also like to expand the guests to other people, for example: wine makers from Napa, people that have created something in the culinary world that is entrepreneurial or just plain really good.
What is the thought process behind which questions to ask a chef? Are the questions basically the same every interview, or do they change?
BL: I actually put a lot of thought into my questions. […] I want people to hear things that they can’t find or read about on the Web, so I try to take things to the next level. Twice, I have had chefs get teary-eyed on stage, [and] it was truly heartwarming to see and experience this. It broke down the walls and gave the audience the chance to really see a different side of who these people are!
You’ve had some pretty high profile chefs in the Bay Area scene on your show. Is there anything surprising you’ve learned?
BL: I think that in a way being on stage is kind of therapeutic for the chef. It gives them a chance to take a step back and really look at where they are today and talk about things that they probably haven’t talked about for quite some time! It gives them a chance to reflect on how they got there and why they do the things that they do.
The thing that is so amazing is the passion that they all have for what they do. You can hear it in their voice and you can see it in their eyes when they start to talk about all the things that they have gone through to get to where they are today.
And lastly, our favorite question from your own show — salt or pepper?
BL: I think I’d have to say pepper!