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Friday, April 16, 2010

David White Talks About Central Kitchen, Flour + Water's Planned Spin-Off

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 1:17 PM

David White. - FRANKENYIMAGES.COM
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After yesterday's news that Flour + Water seeks to launch an ambitious Mission food space next year at 20th Street and Florida, next to Southern Exposure Gallery, we grabbed a phone with co-owner David White. With business partner David Steele and chef Thomas McNaughton, White wants Central Kitchen to be not only a restaurant and take-out salumeria and deli, but also a kind of neighborhood food space, with demos, theme dinners ― well, we'll let White speak for himself.

SFoodie: Talk about the idea behind Central Kitchen.

White: Well, we just got this great space, and the things we want to do ― the salumeria and catering and these big, banquet-style dinners in the evening, and à la carte brunch ― it all necessitates a very big kitchen. When we were conceiving this, that was the starting point. It's like this super kitchen.

As far as the theme dinners go, we want there to be exclusively community tables, like a banquet, an event, a celebration, a party. It leaves a lot of opportunities to do so many things. There are so many farmers in the environs, so many great chefs, so many great people interested in these things. Education about food ― learning ― is integral to what we're doing.

What kind of themed dinners are you guys thinking about? Well, we're thinking of starting (hypothetically, because we're still a long way out) with a butchery demonstration, maybe butchering an animal, and then cooking and eating it right there. It's about connecting people with what they're eating. It's more than a trend here, it's a movement, really.

Can you point to any events you've been to that are your inspiration? I'd say we're inspired by the things we can't do at Flour + Water. You know, Tom [McNaughton] has got a lot of varied experience, not exclusively Italian. It's about not pigeonholing us into a particular cuisine. Hypothetically, one day it could revolve around the farm that provides us with quail, or with a pig ― Devil's Gulch, maybe. On another day it could be a concept of whole animal, four courses using every part of a different animal.

Guest chefs? That's a possibility. There's a real community here, genuinely a community, of chefs, back of house people, front of house people, everyone knows everybody in this community.

Your announcement yesterday suggested the kitchen would be literally transparent, literally at the center of the space. Is that right? I think the idea of the transparency is we'd like to connect people with what they're eating, that a finished dish doesn't come out from behind the closed door. It's to make people more aware of their food, it's important for people to know where there food is from. In the age of Cheetos, we want to explain where food comes from.

We want this all to be very community-based. We just really, really believe in the neighborhood and the neighbors here [around Southern Exposure]. It's going through this renaissance right now. You have Slow Club, Atlas, Blowfish, Gratitude ― they were pioneers in what was a wild-west neighborhood in those days, 10 years ago. But it's a very vibrant neighborhood, lots of new residential, an emerging neighborhood that will be defined as its own entity. We're the new kids on the block here.

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