En route to writing about Fifth Floor, the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review, I talked to David Bazirgan, who's been the chef there since November. What I wanted to know: In the era of the small, idiosyncratic restaurant, why take a job at a hotel? Turns out he's having the time of his life:
SFoodie: So I'm familiar with your time at Baraka and Chez Papa Resto [where Bazirgan was last chef], but not with your experience before that.
Bazirgan: I came out to San Francisco from Boston, where I was chef de cuisine under Barbara Lynch at No. 9 Park. When I moved out here, I was sous-chef for Daniel Patterson at Elisabeth Daniel, then went on to Baraka and was there for a good while. From there, I helped [Baraka owner] Jocelyn Bulow with Chez Papa Bistrot, and at one time was running four restaurants for him. After that, I took a slight hiatus, tried to open my own gig, then went on to open Chez Papa Resto, and was there for 2 years.
Then I got the call from Fifth Floor. Getting back into something like this, I knew it was going to be all or nothing. Lot of big shoes to fill in this house. I put in a lot of effort here, but I haven't had this much fun cooking, ever.
My last meal at Fifth Floor under Melissa Perello was very different from what you're doing -- very serene, Cal-Med food. Seems like you're bringing in a lot of different seasonings and techniques.
I was cooking Spanish Moroccan at Baraka, and Barbara's homed in on Italian and some French, but for me, I love using those techniques and bringing them together with whatever I want to bring in. I'm in Japantown one week, at the Indian grocery the next, and trying to stick with using all the bounty of the produce here.