Looking for a fabulous night out in San Francisco and a way to benefit a wonderful cause? Look no further than the SF Chefs Spring Dinner Party Project! Benefiting “Blessings in a Backpack,” these collaborative dinners showcase the best in San Francisco culinary talent! I had a chance to speak to the two chefs behind the May 6th dinner: “An Evening with David Bazirgan and Ravi Kapur.” Executive Chef of Fifth Floor, Chef Bazirgan marries traditional European training with international flair. Chef Kapur adds originality and excitement to his Hawaiian influence, creating an exciting culinary experience at the Liholiho Yacht Club. Collaborating for the second time, these Chefs promise to bring wonderful food and fantastic personalities to the table! They let fresh, seasonal ingredients dictate the menu and allow inspiration to take over from there! This and the other SF Chefs Dinners promise to be evenings to remember!
RD: Could you describe a bit about your culinary background?
CK: I started cooking in college just for a side job; nothing too serious. Halfway through college I realized that cooking is what I love to do and I moved out to San Francisco to attend California Culinary Academy in 1998.
In the meantime, I met my now-wife – we both knew we wanted to travel, so after school was finished I opted out of doing my externship and we moved to Santa Fe where her family was living. I worked at the Compound Restaurant for a year, working doubles, and then we saved up enough money and took off and traveled for a year.
After that, we moved back to Santa Fe to save up more money, and then we moved back to San Francisco where I opened Redwood Park Restaurant. I did that for a year, then took a little more time off, did a little bit more traveling.
I came back to San Francisco and went to work at Boulevard Restaurant, where I worked there for about eight years. In the meantime, we were working on a new project called Prospect, I opened that, and went into being the Executive Chef there for a year and a half.
In the meantime, my first child was born, and I just realized I needed to step out, spend some time with him and regroup and see exactly where I was going with all this culinary-wise. I got out of the restaurant, spent tons of time with my son, and needed to do something intermediate, and that’s when I started doing the pop-ups which was about a year-and-half ago. That brings us to now, where I’m still actively doing the pop-ups and Liholiho Yacht Club and simultaneously looking for a place of my own!
CB: A lot of the stuff earlier in my career was very Mediterranean, very Italian. We wanted to refine, so a lot of the stuff that I started to do was very much along the lines of French seasonal, whatever’s in the market, changing the menu quite frequently. It’s always been about the season and about the market, what’s been available – what’s in season, and run from there! That sort of cooking has been going on for a long time, forever really. It’s more prominent now in the media, farm-to-table, but to me it’s a no-brainer.
RD: What would you say influences your overall style as a chef?
CK: My overall style is pretty diverse as far as culinary, cooking wise, but I’d definitely say its inspiration and flavor-driven. The whole local, sustainable, organic thing is really an assumption now in San Francisco; everybody shops at the market, using the best quality product they can as close to the source as possible. It’s being inspired by the ingredient, by a memory; just being open and trying to cook as openly and deliciously as possible is the style!
CB: I would say definitely I have a foundation of classics and sort of try to elevate and tweak them through texture and different nuances.
RD: How did you become involved with the SF Chefs?
CK: David is the host chef for this dinner party series, and Dave and I have been friends for a while. We did a dinner together back in December and it went well, it was super fun. I think he just wanted to do that again and I was immediately game for it since we had a good time. So, that’s really through Dave!
RD: How did your partnership come about?
CB: I’ve been friends with Ravi for quite some time, and I do a Holiday Guest Chef series every year. He was part of it this past year, and I was looking for one chef to join me as part of this SF Chefs Series, and he was just a good fit!
RD: How does this collaborative dinner differ from your usual work at Fifth Floor and the Liholiho Yacht Club?
CK: It’s totally different! Liholiho is really personal cooking that’s inspired by my upbringing in Hawaii and my exposure to the mixed range of cultures that have shaped the cuisine of Hawaii. So, that’s super personal – there’s a lot less collaboration as far as the dish goes. It’s really my vision and my interpretation and story. Collaborative dinners are totally different. It’s a conversation with Dave about the story we’re trying to tell or the journey we’re trying to present for people. This dinner, each dish we’ll work on together. We’ll put together the general structure of a dish, the flavor profile in general, and we’ll both bring to the table our own techniques and approach to it to come up with something cohesive. We’ll learn from each other and see how the other person sees that same ingredient. It’s fun, it’s different, it gets us out of our normal routine!
CB: It’ll still be the same sort of approach we do now, but it’ll be collaboration between Ravi and myself, so you’ll have the influence of his style as well as mine!
RD: What menu do you have planned for the SF Chefs dinner?
CK: We’re talking about doing a starter with asparagus, halibut is coming in right now, and probably move into a tasting of lamb in a few variations. It’s more like we’re going to get the general things together and kind of jam out, in a sense! It’s not too structured, it’s kind of get in there and work it out!
CB: We’re going to do something nice and seasonal with beets and asparagus, and then we’re going to do a halibut dish since halibut is in season, and then we’re doing a duet of lamb. We’re also doing a rhubarb tart, since rhubarb is in season and it’s delicious!