After winning the title of Best New Chef from Food & Wine last year, Saison's Joshua Skenes has been keeping busy at the San Francisco pop-up-turned full-fledged restaurant.
Starting up as a once-a-week dinner in 2009, the restaurant has since expanded into a five-nights-a-week operation, earning two Michelin stars along the way. Next up, a wine school on Saturdays (start dates unknown), a cookbook, and maybe a move away from San Francisco's Mission District, although nothing is set in stone.
"I kind of want to get the hell our of Mission to be honest," Skenes told us. "I think we've just outgrown it to a degree. At the same time, it could be a really beautiful space if we took over the whole building and remodeled it."
They'll know within the next month, Skenes says, but he promises the same fire-infused cooking he started out with. Read on to learn about his fire techniques, cookbook, and history.
The Daily Meal: First, explain to us exactly what this fire cooking means.
Joshua Skenes: A long time ago, we decided that fire was the most delicious way to cook. So everything on the menu, there’s something from the fire. We take bones of a fish, beef, pig, whatever, roast it in the fire, and make a sauce out of that, or we take these mustard leaves, brush them a little with grapeseed oil, and grill them in embers over almost imperceptible heat. You end up with a bunch of crispy little leaves of mustard... and the whole thing has just an incredible depth of flavor because of the fire.
TDM: So you're working on a cookbook, then. Will this teach us how to cook with all forms of fire?
JS: The beginning is going to be just a brief on Saison, and the chapters I think will be based on the principles of fire cooking. Fire cooking has been around for the beginning of mankind, there’s this huge history, but now it’s all been refined to the finesse of a high-end kitchen. Within those chapters it’ll have recipes and techniques based on those principles.
TDM: Tell us a little about the beginnings of Saison. It started out once a week.
JS: We found the space randomly; it was an incubator space, it was a commercial kitchen. There was a gallery which is now the dining room. From the idea to the opening was two weeks; we bought some pots, we bought some plates, and we opened.
TDM: How many people came on the opening day?
JS: I think 42. Disaster. But it was fun, it was good. We used to seat everybody at one time, get everybody in a room, and just start cooking. I remember one night there were reviewers there, and this one reviewer had to wait 47 minutes for his goat dish. It was ridiculous.
TDM: What happened?
JS: Before, I was cooking in a grill in the back, so I was using brick in the back, burying pigs with ambers and ash and stuff. It was very homegrown, very humble beginnings. So I’d run back and forth between that and the kitchen. There were three cooks total, including myself, and three waiters total. That was the beginning.