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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Q&A with Kim Alter, Chef of Haven

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Kim Alter. - SARA DAVIS
  • Sara Davis
  • Kim Alter.

Kim Alter. I'd last spoken to Alter at Plate Shop, the Sausalito restaurant where she was head cook, gardener, and butcher. I wanted to know how she got hooked up with Haven's owner, Daniel Patterson, and how the transition had affected her cooking.

SFoodie: So, it looks from my visits like Haven's already doing well.

Alter: It's ridiculous. Every day we're doing more than 100 covers. I'm kind of surprised, just because I thought the location would be a hindrance.

So what have you been doing since I last spoke to you at Plate Shop? 

Well, I took a month off after I left Plate Shop. I got a lot of offers and went through the interview process with a few places. Then Daniel approached me. I helped him at Coi for a month, and during that time we were talking about things. The [business] relationship with Lauren [Kiino] split up around that time [Ed note: Patterson and Kiino were partners at Il Cane Rosso, and Kiino was slated to become the chef of the Jack London Square restaurant]. Then I went to Plum for two months and worked with Ron [Boyd]. He's my rock, my support system. 

In August or September, I agreed to become chef of Haven. We were thinking about what concept would be a good fit in Oakland, and came up with "Let us cook for you." Let's try out things we're working on, see what people think. We wanted to have people sitting around a table breaking bread, sharing plates, having a dinner experience. We started pop-ups at Plum in the fall, and opened in December.

How do you feel your food has changed from Plate Shop to Haven?

To be honest, I think we're doing similar food -- we're using a lot of the same techniques, farmers, and proteins -- but doing it in a different style. It's just been more well received here. Perhaps in Marin it didn't catch on. Also, the kitchen at Plate Shop wasn't designed to do the food we were doing, with six different techniques on one plate; it was hard to get out. Here, we have the same amount of staff, but we're able to put out the food in a better way. We have a Rational, we have a few Jade flat-tops, a big Doughpro with broiler grill and oven, which I use for roasting vegetables, cassoulet, whole pieces of New York steak. At Plate Shop I had one flat-top and one six-burner stove, and it just got crowded.

And I think that the restaurant just fits Oakland better. So many people have already eaten at Haven over and over again. People come here two times a week, and certain reservations are made for the same time, same place, same servers, every week. It's looking hopeful.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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