(L-R) Jennifer Biesty, Liam Mayclem & Tim Nugent (credit: Foodie Chap/Liam Mayclem)
Chef Jennifer Biesty took her first job bussing tables in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York, when she was in high school, just a couple of years before becoming one of the youngest students at the CIA in Hyde Park, NY in 1990. Upon graduation, Biesty headed to New Orleans to embark on a six-month internship at Sazerac, before returning to New York and joining the fast-paced kitchen of Aquavit in 1992. Surrounded by a hard-working mentality in which the chefs did everything themselves including peeling, cutting and butchering everything on the plate, Biesty learned to take responsibility for what she created and quickly gained respect for the products themselves and the entire cooking process.
In 1995, the West Coast’s food mecca and strong female chef presence called to Biesty and she headed to San Francisco to work under Loretta Keller at Bizou, who would quickly become her mentor. At Bizou, Biesty experienced an education in rustic, California-influenced French cookery.
In 1997, Biesty traveled to Europe, spending time in Paris, Spain and Italy before settling in London to take a chef departie position alongside renowned chefs Jamie Oliver, Ruth Rodgers and Rose Gray at The River Café, working with some of the most high-quality ingredients Europe had to offer. She returned to San Francisco in 1998 to work for Chef Traci desJardins and Chef Richard Reddington at Jardiniére, handling butchery and creating strong relationships with local farmers and purveyors. She returned to Bizou as Chef de Cuisine in 1999, where she spearheaded the team and menu before becoming Executive Chef at Universal Café in 2003.
Reuniting with Loretta Keller in 2005, Biesty played an integral role in Bizou’s transition to COCO5OO, taking part in the restaurant’s design, concept, menu development, branding, and managing the back of the house team as Chef. In turn, the new restaurant was awarded three stars by the San Francisco Chronicle and StarChefs.com recognized Biesty as a Rising Star Chef. In 2008, Biesty was recruited by the Bravo TV network to compete on season four of the critically acclaimed television show, Top Chef.
Following Top Chef, Biesty joined San Francisco’s Sir Francis Drake Hotel as Executive Chef in 2005, including the hotel’s renowned restaurant, Scala’s. At the Sir Francis Drake, Biesty managed the largest team of her career, oversaw a multi-million dollar food program at the hotel, and balanced creating a consistently profitable menu with staying true to her roots of purchasing and cooking with only high-quality, farm-driven ingredients. It is here Biesty met her Shakewell business partner, Executive Pastry Chef Tim Nugent, whom she worked alongside for five years. With a similar work ethic and viewpoint about food. Biesty and Nugent are bringing bold Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine with global influences to the Lakeshore neighborhood of Oakland.
Do yourself a favor and visit Shakewell Bar & Kitchen. Their small tapas concept may be about small plates, but the flavours are big, bold and vibrant.The chicken & almond albondigas was my personal favorite – tasty balls of naughty goodness drowned in an aromatic sea of tomato sauce with pimenton and pino sherry. Do not leave without enjoying a sweet ending…Chef Tim knows his desserts.
The cocktail program is an important part of the Shakewell story. Saddle up to the bar for a killer cocktail or two or indeed have them served at the table and paired with your meal.
I met the Top Chef alumni, now partners in business, Jen and Tim at their new Oakland spot for our foodie chap chat . I should warn you, much hilarity ensues here. Also, enjoy the tasty albondigas recipe below.
KCBS’ Foodie Chap Chat Podcast:
¼ cup diced ciabatta bread, soaked in ¼ cup heavy cream and refrigerated overnight
4 cups ground chicken
1 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram, chopped
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups cooking oil
Trim the crust of the ciabatta bread and dice in cubes. In a small bowl, cover diced bread with heavy cream. Allow bread to soak overnight.
In a small pan, sauté onions and garlic until translucent and set aside to cool. Squeeze the cream out of the bread and place in a blender. Add the spices, herbs, almonds, 2 cups of ground chicken, cream, EVOO and puree until smooth. In a bowl, combine the remaining ground chicken, pureed mixture and sautéed onions and garlic until thoroughly mixed. Form into golf-ball-sized balls and place on cookie sheet. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
½ cup carrots, diced
½ cup onions, diced
½ cup celery, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 cup sherry wine
¼ cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
In a large saucepan, sauté carrots, onion and celery until translucent. Add minced garlic, dried spices and cook for oneminute. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add sherry wine and vinegar; reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes.
Heat cooking oil in a cast-iron skillet and fry the Albondigas on all sides until golden brown. Pour hot braising sauce into Dutch oven, or other oven-safe large casserole dish, and placeAlbondigas into sauce. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
For more on SHAKEWELL BAR & KITCHEN, visit www.shakewelloakland.com