Foodie Chap: Bix & Restaurant Picco
San Francisco-based chef Bruce Hill’s goals are simple: cook with the best seasonal ingredients, employ and teach great technique, and design dishes that best suit the unique atmosphere of his restaurants. Hill’s first job in San Francisco was at Jeremiah Tower’s Stars in 1984. From there the self-taught Hill began to implement the tenets that have since earned him a spot on the roster of the Bay Area’s most groundbreaking chefs: use the best local ingredients at the right time of year.
After opening Aqua in 1990 and bringing Oritalia to fame in 1993, Hill transformed the Waterfront Restaurant in 1997, receiving a Rising Star Chef award by Wine Spectator Magazine. Hill was recruited to cook as a guest chef in Japan and Hong Kong in 1999 and 2000.
“Being a chef is about discovery,
about new flavours, it’s about craft.”
- Bruce Hill, Chef & Inventor
In 2002, Hill revived Bix Restaurant as a partner and executive chef. Under Hill’s direction, Bix garnered it’s first 3-star review from the San Francisco Chronicle. He brought sexy back to SF’s dining scene. “People somehow do feel a little sexier after a visit here” said Bruce.
While at Bix, Chef Hill invented the Chef’s Press, the only vented and weight adjustable cooking press, patented in 2007. The Chef’s Press is sold by Williams-Sonoma, J.B. Prince and Chef’s Catalog.
Chef Hill opened Picco and Pizzeria Picco in 2005, quickly becoming a top Marin County restaurant, featuring risotto every half hour and a “designed to share” menu format. Pizzeria Picco has had multiple honors, including Zagat’s top 10 US pizzerias in 2012.
2010 marked the opening of Zero Zero. He dubs the cuisine “Calipolitan,” referencing the California ingredients that top pizzas made according to traditional Neapolitan technique. Zero Zero also features artisan pastas, seasonal crudos and organic soft serve ice cream.
From STARS restaurant to STAR CHEF, Bruce Hill has come a long way baby! We met at BIX restaurant in San Francisco for our Foodie Chap chat. Chef fresh from the farmers market, which he describes as “church for chefs”, a weekly gathering of culinaires who come together to worship at the altar of locally sourced offerings.
We talked, we ate, we oohed and cooed over some terribly tasty “tough boy” tomatoes.
Five Tasty Questions with Chef Bruce Hill
1. Being a Chef to you is about…?
It’s about discovery. It’s about new flavors and it’s about craft.
2. It’s midnight and I go to your fridge, what will I find there?
You’re going to find a lot of stuff in my fridge. I cook at home a lot so you’re going to find fresh fruit and a lot of lettuces. Stuff that I can eat at night without starch. Looking for a lot of flavors and hardly any starch at night.
3. The soundtrack to your life; pick one artist/one song.
This one is tough but it might be “Starman” by Bowie.
4. In a second life you come back as something other than a Chef, what are you?
I’d own a hardware store, but it still sells cooking gear.
5. At your last supper you can have a couple of guests, who would they be and what would you eat?
No question it’s going to be my mom and my wife and the reason being because they never got to meet. My mom passed before I met my wife, but we are going to eat a simple meal that we bought at the Farmers Market. We’re going to have absolutely no menu in mind when we get to the market and we’re going to buy what looks good and cook it!
Chef’s Press ½ lb. BIX Burger
This recipe is the famous burger from Bix Restaurant in San Francisco. The blogger Tablehopper called the Bix burger the best white napkin burger in San Francisco. By searing and pressing, it results in a very juicy burger.
1/2 lb. ground chuck, best quality, 20% fat content (at referigerator temperature)
1 burger bun, 4-5” size
Burger fixins, cook’s choice. (my favorites are caramelized onions, bacon and blue cheese)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 – Chef’s Presses, 9 oz.
oven, pre heated to 500°
oven safe cast iron or stainless steel skillet, 10″ size
-Form the ground beef in to a 1 inch thick patty
-Pre-heat your pan over medium-high heat.
-Season the burgers with salt and pepper.
-Place the burgers in the heated pan, turn the burner to high. (no oil is necessary)
-Turn your exhaust hood on high.
-Place 2 Chef’s presses on the burger, cook for 1 minute 15 seconds.
-Remove the presses, flip the burgers, place the presses back on the burgers.
-Cook for 20 seconds on high heat, place the entire pan in the oven.
-Set your timer according to your desired doneness
Here are the cook times for different temps – (these may vary with different stoves)
Rare- 3 ½ minutes
Mid Rare- 4 minutes
Medium- 4 ½ minutes
Medium Well- 5 minutes (3 weights per burger)
Well Done- 5 ½ minutes (3 weights per burger)
-Remember to remove the weights and flip the burgers as soon as you take the pan out of the oven.
-Remove the burgers from the pan, fix em’ as you like!
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)