Travelogue: "Yes, Chef" Book Tour In The Bay Area

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Marcus Samuelsson is on the road, filing reports from his Yes, Chef book tour here on the site he co-founded, Food Republic. He's cooking special dinners at some of the country's best restaurants, when he's not doing interviews and touring notable spots. Last week he filled us in on an eventful trip to LA, highlighted by a guest chef appearance at Son of a Gun. Later, he hit the Bay Area. This is his story...

San Francisco and the Bay Area have been incredible. We arrived early Wednesday morning and headed straight to Google. We were given a tour of Campus and checked out what they're doing in their herb garden and micro kitchens from executive chef Liv Wu. After a talk and book signing it was off to a couple more interviews, then we headed to Oakland to cool with Russ Moore at Camino, which Russ owns with his wife Allison. 

Camino was an incredible place to be. Oakland reminds me of Harlem  — and Russ's search for the perfect spot to open a restaurant there reminds me of when I was looking for a place to open Red Rooster. He chose Oakland because rent was cheaper and he could do the kind of cooking he wanted to do. For Camino that means an open-fire grill in a gorgeous open kitchen. The space was absolutely stunning and wow, the food. Passed appetizers for the sold-out crowd included gravlax, fried local vegetables, cracklins and pickled turnips. Russ planned the menu around Soul of a New Cuisine and Aquavit, and that meant grilled duck breast with lentils, kofte meatballs and donuts with fresh blackberry and peach compote for dessert. All the dishes were honest and tasty. I was really impressed with Russ's commitment to provide excellent service and food in Oakland. We had a great time. (Read Food Republic's story Meet Oakland's Auteur-Chef, Russell Moore, for more on this talented chef.)

The next day was all about food. I can't remember the last time I had three full meals in a day. It started with a private party at a home in Palo Alto with Mother Jones magazine. About 20 people came out to share conversation, and probably the best breakfast I've ever had. There were grits and ham hocks, skillet eggs, millet muffins with apricot Armagnac Jam and fresh granola. The quality of ingredients is so amazing on the West Coast. The home had a wood burning oven in the backyard, and they kept it burning all night for the breakfast. That's commitment to good eating! The people I met at the breakfast were some of the brightest and best minds doing amazing things for food sustainability and preservation. 

From there, I went straight back to San Francisco for a lunch with my good friend Traci des Jardins at Jardinière. She prepared a beautiful menu that was Scandinavian to the core — herring rollmops, a Smorreboard and abelskievers. In San Francisco I've been amazed by the different crowds of people that have come out in support of Yes, Chef: Mothers and their adopted children; Ethiopians who have heard my story and want to share theirs; ladies who lunch. I've really been enjoying meeting the diverse audience that's read my book. 

Next, I grabbed some wine and sat with my friend Chris Cosentino at Incanto after a long day of events. I was also able to try his new spot Boccalone in the Ferry Building. The man does crazy things like make "spaghetti" out of pig skin, but my absolute favorite dish I had that night was the roasted carrots with Berbere spice. The carrots were spicy and sweet and completely perfect. I wanted to check out a cool bar or lounge for a nightcap but was having a hard time finding a place that didn't look like a Brooks Brothers pop-up, so I called it a night and got to bed early for my 5 a.m. flight to Seattle.