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Chef Banks White

by Amy Harrington | November 8th, 2012 | Chef Interviews
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Looking for a place that incorporates and excites all five of your senses from your food? FIVE is a modern American Bistro located in Downtown Berkeley that combines the ambiance and environment of the restaurant with gourmet dishes crafted by Executive Chef Banks White.  FIVE is known for being that quaint neighborhood place that you always return to.  Chef Banks White has developed a menu that is natural and familiar while still using complex flavor, texture and taste. With an approach that supports local, sustainable and organic farmers, Chef White guarantees an experience that the diner will not forget. I was able to speak to Chef White who informed me on their new, local dishes.

AH: What local produce items are being used in your dishes currently?

CB: Heirloom chicories, baby beets, parsnip, celery root, sweet potatoes, late summer plums, brussel sprouts, turnips, persimmons, Braeburn apples, cranberries, huckleberries

AH: Have you created any special menu items that highlight the local produce?

CB: Our menu revolves around the season and strives off our relationships with farmers we’ve made through the years.

AH: Do you work with any farms in particular?

CB: This spring/summer we worked closely with Kashiwase Farms because they consistently delivered stone fruit that was probably some of the best I’ve tasted since moving to the Bay Area.

AH: How often do you change your menu?

CB: Right now we’re in autumn but we’re still celebrating late summer items. A lot of times restaurants will rush into unveiling their “Fall Menu”. ..but it’s 70 degrees and sunny outside. Our approach is trust the people who grow your food. They will always let us know what’s coming up, what’s being planted and when the season really begins.

AH: How would you describe the restaurant’s farm-to-table approach?

CB: We try and stay away from the phrase “farm-to-table” because it’s been over used throughout the years to where anyone can be farm-to-table if you get produce delivered to your restaurant. Our approach is simple.

Know the people who grow your food, visit them, and see for yourself.

Relationships take time and trust. It won’t happen overnight, you’ll have to go through several seasons to build it.

AH: Do any of your dishes reflect your Southern roots, from living in Texas?

CB: Parts of the menu I throw an ode to the South, but a lot of my professional career has been made in Northern California (Auberge du Soliel, Domaine Chandon and FIVE.) You can find my grandmother’s cornbread paired with local East Bay honey to Crispy Dourade and Clams with malay curry butter inspired through my recent trip to Malaysia.

AH: What makes your restaurant unique?

CB: I think what makes FIVE unique is its ability to take a modern approach to things that are comforting and familiar. From our take on Mac N Cheese using orzo and a smoked Gouda cheese sauce to Cocoa and Chile rubbed Pork Tenderloin with grits and house bacon. We are the product of our surroundings. A  modern American restaurant to me encompasses a lot of American culture and cuisine and that’s a melting pot of other cultures and cuisines.

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