The chef of Alta CA: Yoni Levy. Photo by Tienlon Ho.
Last week I had the opportunity to sit down and meet Yoni Levy, the chef for the Daniel Patterson Group’s upcoming ~ALTA CA~, opening in the Mid-Market area. Levy has worked with some talented chefs all over the country, starting locally with his externship at Bradley Ogden’s One Market Restaurant, and then to the Lark Creek Inn with Jeremy Sewall, whom he followed to Boston to open Great Bay restaurant. He also talked about working with Paul Kahan at Blackbird in Chicago, where he was the lead line cook (working in Kahan’s kitchen means you have to come up with dishes if you’re going to succeed), and his time with chefs Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds of the rock ‘n’ roll Lula Café, which helped prepare him for the upcoming daytime/nighttime menus he will be running at Alta.
Levy took some time out from restaurant kitchens for about six months to explore food activism, working at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (he cooked in the soup kitchen for the women’s shelter, and also was a part of launching its greenhouse program). After returning to restaurant life (working with chef Chris Pandel at The Bristol and chef Jared Van Camp at Old Town Social), Levy and his wife (now a curator at SFMOMA) took a trip to California and decided to stay (Levy is originally from San Jose). Through a friend at Flora, he found a job there, where he has been for the past two years (he was chef de cuisine); through a chance reunion with chef Kim Alter (they originally met in the kitchen at Blackbird), he was introduced to Daniel Patterson.
Levy is “ecstatic” that this is his first chef job, and “for such an awesome group and area—[I] always wanted to be a chef in San Francisco. It’s priceless to be able to bounce ideas off Ron [Boyd] and Daniel [Patterson].” Sidebar: a bar manager for Alta hasn’t been named yet, but Boyd is currently working on some cocktail innovations.
Alta CA is a couple of months out (currently targeting late fall) and since Levy’s menu will be so seasonally minded, it’s hard to project what the exact dishes on the menu will be, but he did mention that there will be simple, bold flavors, with a focus on brightness and freshness. Grains and vegetables will be primary, with meats as more of an accompaniment instead of the main event. The menu will cover lunch, dinner, bar snacks, and late night; for lunch, he said he’d like to offer “big bowls of beautiful food that will make you feel good about what you ate,” as well as energized for the rest of the day. Sounds good to me.
Right now he’s helping out at Haven, and you’ll be able to meet Levy at the upcoming Food Bank gala on September 21st, One Big Table.