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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kim Alter: Gardener, Butcher, Chef

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 10:43 AM

click to enlarge Plate Shop's Kim Alter, making monkey bread. - KIMBERLY SANDIE
  • Kimberly Sandie
  • Plate Shop's Kim Alter, making monkey bread.

I caught Kim Alter, Plate Shop's chef, on the phone for a quick interview last week as I was wrapping up my first draft of this week's review. After cooling her heels for more than a year while Plate Shop's opening kept being delayed ― working at Ubuntu with both Jeremy Fox and Aaron London, waiting tables at Acquerello ― she's now in full-tilt mode, working as head chef, butcher, gardener, and pastry chef. Here are a few excerpts from our interview:

SFoodie: How long ago did you start the back garden?

Alter: April 2009 was the first time I stepped into it. It didn't see any progress until August, though. We brought in two tons of dirt, got water tubs, and put drain rocks in. We took chain saws to the ivy, which had not been touched for 20 years ― it took me a long time to get the garden where it is now. I thought we were going to open in August 2010, so the garden was fully up and running. I had to give or sell produce to restaurants like Coi, Acquerello, and Citizen's Band because I didn't want to throw it away. We finally opened in February.

So is the plan to source all your produce from the garden or just small, hard-to-find fruits and vegetables?

A little bit of both. For example, we're growing New Zealand spinach, and the garnishes from the plate come from the backyard. My boyfriend, Ron, and I built a shed for starters and microgreens. But it's not enough for 100 percent of what we need. We're growing in shifts, so you'll see half of the bins planted. We've got 18 bins, including flowers to bring bees. The winter was so gnarly ― first it was 80 degrees, then 30 ― and this was my first year. Right now I have radishes, carrots, turnips, flowers, mustard greens, chard, and lettuces ― other than that, it's pretty rough. I'm hoping that by spring and summer we'll have a lot of interesting stuff. Last August I had beans, tomatoes, turnips, carrots, Swiss chard, and all my herbs. I was surprised to discover I have a green thumb!

I've also read there are chickens?

We've built a chicken coop, but we recently had two deaths in the family. A couple more are just at the point of laying eggs, but they're still getting adjusted from their surroundings. There's a raccoon that's scaring them.

And how did the name "Plate Shop" come about?

We wanted to find a maritime theme, since this street was the site of a factory where they made Liberty Ships pre-World War II. That's why the restaurant is kind of industrial ― with the bar wrapped in steel and steel-wrapped structure beams. I try to tie things in by serving things on slate and steel.

How many pigs are you bringing in every week for the pig roast dish?

Every week, we bring in a couple ― they're sucklings right now, in the 28- to 32-pound range. We break them down and do different things with them. Actually, I'm about to change that dish, since Biaggio Meats has some wonderful spring lambs right now.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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