|Brandon Jew, photo: Meesha Halm|
It’s been a couple of weeks since Brandon Jew officially left his post at Bar Agricole, but we ran into him at the IACP Host Party at the Ferry Building where he was serving a soymilk custard with hot and sour consommé, pickled shiitakes and spicy XO sauce. We took the opportunity to catch up with the free agent chef to learn about what he’s been up to and how he’s hoping to elevate the level of Chinese food in San Francisco at his forthcoming restaurant. With all recent talk about the sad state of Chinese food in the United States, his new venture couldn't be more relevant.
Zagat Survey: Is it true that you’re going to be opening a Chinese-inspired restaurant?
BJ: Yes, I want to present the cleanest, purest Chinese food that I can. To do that, I need to need to make my own pantry. I don’t intend to buy anything imported from China. I am in the process of learning how to make my own tofu and my own soy sauce and I'm making rice vinegar and fermenting bean pastes. In addition, I plan to make all my sauces ((oyster sauce, hoisin, XO) using local products. I’m also digging up a bunch of old recipes (mostly Cantonese) from old traditional cookbooks that I’m excited to reinterpret.
ZS: What's your thought on the state of Chinese food in SF?
BJ: People have the idea that Chinese food is cheap, greasy and not good for you. That's because there are so many bad examples of it around. That’s not what I experienced living in China or eating my grandmother’s food. There’s a lot of technique in Chinese cooking, But in the US, a lot of Chinese restaurants are trying to do too much instead of concentrating on what they think is good. How could anyone figure out what to order when there are 300 things on the menu!
ZS: How do you envision the look and feel of the place? High-end, super casual?
BJ: I just want it to be soulful, pure and casual.