Around the Kitchen in 3 Questions: Chef Jonah Rhodehamel

Chef Rhodehamel discusses the influence of his travels on his creative process

Oliveto has been open in San Francisco since 1986.

The Daily Meal caught up with chef Jonah Rhodehamel to learn about how his travels have influenced his work. Rhodehamel is the executive chef of Oliveto Restaurant and Café in Oakland, Calif. Not even 30, and without having trained in a professional kitchen until his 20s, Rhodehamel has worked at San Francisco restaurant landmarks like Zinnia and Quince. His Oliveto menus change on a daily basis and are heavily influenced by Italian regional cooking traditions.

The Daily Meal: What has been your most inspirational food experience while traveling?
Jonah Rhodehamel:
Most inspirational has to be dog in Guangzhou, China... not really but that was a meal, though not very inspired or inspiring. I think the most inspirational was in Guangzhou, in a formal dim sum restaurant on the Pearl River. Their take on classic dim sum offerings was a lot of fun and delicious. All the dishes had a clear reference point, so you knew the flavors to expect, but they were updated and manipulated. It's difficult to successfully change something as classic and delicious as a Shanghai dumpling, but they pulled it off. 

TDM: What’s your favorite kitchen souvenir from your travels?
My favorite kitchen souvenir is probably my bigolaro, a hand extruding pasta machine. I had been looking for one of these throughout my Italy trip with little success. While randomly shopping in a hardware store in Puglia(not even the correct region), I spotted a bigolaro, and chitarra. I bought both for less than €50. They are both used almost every day.


TDM: If you could eat your way through one country, which one would it be and why?
JR: Probably Thailand. The food is varied enough where I don’t think I would get tired of it, and there is always some really casual way to eat. Somewhere I had to make formal plans to get a meal the whole trip would get tiresome; I like being able to grab some noodles from a cart.