Interview: Chef Brad Cecchi of Sacramento’s Canon

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Checci is taking advantage of the region’s stunning agricultural bounty

Canon Restaurant opened recently in Sacramento, and I had the opportunity to dine there at their invitation. I had food that was so wonderful that I had to interview the chef, 34 year-old Brad Cecchi, who led Napa Valley’s Solbar at Solage Calistoga to its eighth consecutive Michelin star last year. His food certainly tastes like the people at Michelin knew what they were doing.

The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?
Chef Brad Cecchi: I started cooking by helping my grandparents in the kitchen in one of their restaurants. By “helping,” I mean sitting at the counter drinking milkshakes while watching my grandfather cook. They owned diners, so it wasn’t high-end food, but their diners were popular and a fun place for a kid to hang out.

Preparing food was a central activity for my family, and family meals were very important throughout my life. During this time I didn’t’t get any formal training — I was mostly peeling potatoes and things like that — but I became comfortable in a kitchen. As a young adult I loved cooking for family and friends.

I started cooking professionally as a teenager in a hotel kitchen. I fell in love with the speed, the heat, and the team work of a kitchen. After high school I enrolled in the American River College culinary arts program. I teach in the program now, which I enjoy.

What keeps you in cooking?
I love the alchemy of making food. Working in a professional kitchen is very hard, so you must love it — and I do.

Do you prefer a particular style of cooking?
I am a fan of food and the cultural influences that drive flavor, preparation, and presentation. I look towards these things for inspiration for my own creative expression.

What kind of atmosphere do you try to create in the kitchen?
In my kitchen I create an atmosphere of hard work, organization, and humor. Being in a kitchen can be demanding and high-stress — and balancing a relentless drive with some lighthearted moments helps to bolster creativity and collaboration.

What is your favorite spice? How do you use it?
My favorite spice right now is Urfa Biber, a Turkish chili pepper. We make a sauce with Ufra Biber and honey, orange, garlic, and vinegar for our “chicken wing.” It’s a chicken drumstick confit, dipped in the sauce and crusted with orange zest and fried garlic. It’s delicious.

Have I missed anything that you feel is important that you would like to add?
We are located in of one of the most productive agriculture regions in the world, so we change the menu according to the availability of locally-sourced food. We enjoy agricultural micro-seasons here, so sometimes products are only available for a few weeks.

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A meal at Canon was provided at no cost to the writer.