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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Laurine Wickett of 'Top Chef': The SFoodie Interview

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 3:25 PM

click to enlarge Wickett: Not exactly in love with Vegas. - LEFT COAST CATERING
  • Left Coast Catering
  • Wickett: Not exactly in love with Vegas.
The 38-year-old Rochester, New York, native has an earthy, tousled vibe that makes you think of a Montessori teacher sipping post-pilates soy chais in Cole Valley. When she arrived in S.F. in 1990, Wickett started cooking at long-defunct Ernie's. By 1999, she helped create the pastry department at Delfina, even as she was landing catering gigs of her own. In the two episodes of Top Chef Season Six that have aired so far, the chef and owner of Left Coast Catering in Dogpatch hasn't bagged a lot of screen time, which makes us think her moment -- full of glory or disgrace -- is coming. Tune in tonight on Bravo for episode three. --J. Birdsall

SFoodie:Why and how did you become a chef?

Wickett: I became interested in cooking when I was young, helping my mother and grandmother in the kitchen. My fondest childhood memories were in the kitchen or revolved around food. I had two second cousins who were chefs and graduates of CIA. That led me to pursue the idea of a career in food at an early age.

How did you end up in San Francisco?

I came to San Francisco for an externship from CIA. While considering San Francisco, Chicago, L.A., and New York for an apprenticeship, it was the Chez Panisse movement in the Bay Area that attracted me to San Francisco. Since then I have made San Francisco my home. It is the ethnic diversity, the great dining and music scene, and the proximity to the ocean and the mountains that has kept me here for 19 years

Why did you want to be on Top Chef?

Honestly it's not something that I went after, more it was an opportunity that fell in my lap. I am always open to new experiences -- you never know where they might lead you.

Did you become close to any of your Top Chef colleagues?

I had my San Francisco posse, Mattin and Preeti. But also really enjoyed the Ashes times two -- I guess being from San Francisco, I felt most comfortable hanging with the gays! I enjoyed Eve and have also stayed in touch with her. My boyfriend, Henry, ate at her restaurant in Ann Arbor last Thursday and said he had one of the best meals of his life. Just goes to show you that even if you are not cut out for the competition that transpires on Top Chef, you can still be a great cook and have a successful restaurant.

Did competing on Top Chef influence your cooking since the show ended?

It has made me steer away from going right to our recipe book, and to cook straight from the "hip".

What are your favorite things to cook? Ingredients? Styles?

I love Mediterranean and Italian fare. It's the food I was brought up on, it's my comfort food. But I love playing with the clean, bright flavors of Thai cuisine.

What are your favorite places to eat in the Bay Area?

Dopo in Oakland is hands down my favorite. Bar Tartine is another place I have gone to over and over again. For Chinese, it's San Tung in the Avenues, and Bar Bambino for a glass of wine and a bite to eat.

How did you like living, shopping, and working in Las Vegas?

I thanked the Great Spirit above that I live in San Francisco!

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Meredith Brody


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