Chef Levine may hail from New York and root for the Yankees but 15 years ago he moved to San Francisco with his wife and two daughters and, like many, left his heart here. Steven has worked at a number of impressive establishments on both coasts including The River Cafe, Aureole, The Quilted Giraffe, Zoe Restaurant, Freestyle in Sonoma and most recently The Cosmopolitan in San Francisco. He’s definitely come a very long way from precocious childhood attempts to make his favorite breakfast while his family slept. The corn and eggs turned out a little on the crispy side and well…frankly inedible, but I’m sure he always remembers to add butter to his frying pans now.
Chef Levine describes his cooking style these days as Contemporary American Cuisine. To Steven this means combining the best local, seasonal ingredients; utilizing classic techniques while incorporating different ethnic influences that make culinary sense on the plate. We think his debut dish is a perfect example of this culinary mission statement. How pretty does this salmon look? We can’t wait to check out how cooking the fish in a corn husk effects the flavor. While we’re all anxiously awaiting Steven’s arrival in the kitchen today let’s get to know him, in his own words, a little bit better.
Which celebrity chef would you most like to cook with and what would you want to prepare?
Not a big fan of “celebrity chefs,” but I would love to cook with Anthony Bourdain. We grew up around the same time, same place, same attitude. I think we would cook a whole pig and proceed to only eat the crispy skin.
Your cousin from out-of-town has a long layover at SFO. He hops in a cab and texts you wanting to know the one thing he has to eat in the city before he rushes back to the airport. What do you tell him?
I would definitely recommend that my cuz should either go straight to the counter at Swan Depot or phone ahead to order the roasted chicken at Zuni.
Do you feel as though you have a signature dish? If so, what is it?
If I were to pick a “signature dish” I would probably pick my sautéed day-boat sea scallops on oxtail risotto with black trumpet mushrooms and truffle oil. I think I’ve said “Pick up scallops,” more than I’ve said “I love you” to my wife. Sad huh?
Invite five famous or infamous folks (they can be alive or dead) to your dinner party. Who are they and what will you serve them?
The 5 people I would invite for dinner would probably include John Lennon, Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Joe Strummer and Teddy Roosevelt. The dinner would consist of whatever Teddy shot that day!
Which of your cookbooks has the most pages covered in olive oil and flour i.e. which one can’t you live without?
In your opinion, what are a few ingredients that we should definitely shop for at farmers markets and which should we leave to the supermarket aisles?
I would almost always look to my local farmer’s market for all fruits and veggies. I wish there were more local butcher shops and fish mongers like in the old days. Supermarkets are getting better, but should be used mainly for dry goods.
Which newly in-season product are you most excited to start slicing and dicing?
This is a no brainer: Heirloom tomatoes, summer pole and shell beans and Brentwood white corn!
Think back to to your high school cafeteria days…what lunch lady “delicacies” used to make it onto your plastic tray?
Luckily I never had to rely on the “lunch ladies.” I always packed my own lunch.
If we peeked inside your fridge right now what would we discover?
I cook for my family everyday. It’s my career and hobby so my fridge runneth over at all times!
What ingredient do you least like to work with?
My least favorite ingredients to cook with are also my least favorite to eat: liver and fava beans. My apologies to Hanibal Lecter.
What’s your favorite place to brunch in the Bay Area?
We don’t mention the “B Word” in my house!
What artist or album do you like to rock out to while you’re cooking?
The tunes that I cook with are usually some old school punk rock. The Ramones, The Clash sprinkled liberally with some Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash garnished with the new Jack White and Tom Waits.
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