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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Summit's Eddie Lau, Part 1

Posted By on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 3:42 PM

click to enlarge Summit chef Eddie Lau. - MEIGAN CANFIELD
  • Meigan Canfield
  • Summit chef Eddie Lau.
Like any newborn these days, The Summit ― Desi Danganan's sprawling, art-flocked café and restaurant set to open Thursday, Sept. 30, at 780 Valencia ― has had its conception and damn-near every womb-kick documented by blog. Danganan's a one-time event producer, proprietor of Poleng Lounge, which blossomed, then withered, but not before seeing its chef, Tim Luym, become a star of the city's emerging Nuevo Filipino food movement. The notion behind The Summit, Danganan blogs, is what came of a mesmerizing 420 session sitting in awe before Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Seriously.

Luym's protégé was Eddie Lau. Lau, now 28, had a day job as a tech consultant four years ago when he convinced Luym to let him gig, without culinary training, at Poleng. After further work at Orson, Lau embarked on his own personal culinary training regimen, which he documented on his feisty, thoughtful, and opinionated blog Hot Food Porn. Now, Lau's The Summit's opening chef, marshaling resources for an all-day operation, starting with breakfast pastries by ex-Orson buddy Jared Nash, and ending the day as a sort of dessert salon, curated by an ever-changing guest pastry chef (first up, Gabriel Mitchell). One thing The Summit isn't: A continuation of Poleng's Asian small-plates format. Lau's opening menu skews meaty, a selection of sandwiches and comfort foods with modern tweaks (28-hour short ribs on weck, 4505 Meats' sausage and grits). We recently talked with Lau about the challenges of opening a restaurant, the places that inspire him, and living up to the strong positions he's laid out at Hot Food Porn.

SFoodie: So you guys have created this sort of restaurant-café hybrid ...

Lau: When Desi and I were talking about the project, just because there are limitations to the kitchen I have and how everything will fit together, we kind of formulated this place serving lunch, dinner, and pastries. And then we wanted to see how much we could push the concept, with the space and the setup. Eventually we found Jared Nash, a friend of mine who I worked with at Orson. He's been at E. & O. Trading ― he jumped on to do the pastries in the morning.

click to enlarge The Summit, which opens Thursday, is a self-styled art bar, restaurant, and cafe at 780 Valencia. - RIVERA PR
  • Rivera PR
  • The Summit, which opens Thursday, is a self-styled art bar, restaurant, and cafe at 780 Valencia.
And you have a guest pastry chef who changes every three months, right?

Right. The idea was just ― well, I didn't want to compromise dessert. I didn't have that confidence that I could tackle a great, great, great dessert program on my own, so I started thinking about who could we have as a dessert chef.

So you're really emphasizing dessert?

Coming from Boston like I do, everybody in Boston thinks of going out for dessert. I thought, How can I make dessert its own service, with its own appeal? I felt that was one of the things that's been lacking a little in San Francisco. I have all these friends who say it would be great if there was a place where people could go late for dessert, some unbelievable dessert place. In this city, your identity is always synonymous with a full-service restaurant. But I have friends who go to Aziza just for dessert, who go to Range just for dessert.

Because we're open later, I thought to do a rotating incubated dessert program. Fortunately I found [one-time Zinnia pastry chef] Gabriel Mitchell, who was interested and signed on. Now we have kind of all four pieces: from breakfast, lunch, and dinner to an incubated dessert house. We almost, we want to make it a little bit of a destination, or give it a little bit of intrigue for people who enjoy dessert and try to seek it out. We'll have a different dessert chef every three to four months, a different vision from somebody else. I thought that would be a nice wrinkle.

Part 2: Eddie Lau talks about why the last thing San Francisco needs is another bistro.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at

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