A couple of weeks ago, on a Monday night, I was thrilled to host another special chefs-only dinner in The Family Meal series I started back in 2014. The very first dinner was an after-hours spaghettata at Locanda in conjunction with Sosh, and then we did a follow-up Oceanic Treasure Chest feast at The Progress, also with Sosh. There was also The Family Screening of Jeremiah Tower’s The Last Magnificent, but we haven’t been able to actually sit down together and break bread for three years (where does the time gooooo?) until now.
Yelp Reservations reached out to me and asked if I could help create an event that would bring SF chefs together and provide an opportunity for a meet-and-greet, and I was like, yeah, I know just the thing! I reached out to chef Brandon Jew of MISTER JIU’S and asked what kind of a night we could put together, and he mentioned he had been wanting to do a luxury hot pot meal for some time. Done!
Instead of hosting the dinner after-hours like we did in the past, this time we held it on a Monday evening and did a buyout of the restaurant. Is there a more beautiful restaurant in San Francisco at dusk than Mister Jiu’s? I can’t think of one. (Check out all the pics from the evening here.)
We started with a cocktail hour in the bar area, and thanks to bar manager Danny Louie and our liquor sponsor for the evening, Hotaling & Co., we started with a killer Kavalan old-fashioned (Kavalan Classic, nine-spice syrup, bitters—bring on the big cube!) and the Junípero Happiness (Junípero Gin, sour apple, gentian, jasmine tea). Passed apps included prawn toast with trout roe and fried oyster you tiao, while a glass of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée greeted every guest (poured en mag, of course)—40 chefs in all. The party got officially started, pop!
When it was time to sit down for dinner, each table had a burner and a pot filled with fragrant medicinal broth (chicken, pork, anchovy, jujube, goji, bay leaf, black cardamom) and then the platters of ingredients started coming out. The first round was loaded with vegetables, Annabelle’s hijiki, Hodo Soy tofu, King of Mushroom mix, bamboo fungus, seaweed tong yuan, Riverdog Farm savoy cabbage and mei qing choy, plus purple daikon, choy sum, chrysanthemum, scallions, green garlic, spring onions, and quail eggs.
There was another wave of Tsar Nicoulai caviar, crispy Passmore Ranch catfish balls, steamed Alaskan king crab with garlic butter, and Hope Ranch mussels, followed by Cream Co. siu yuk and beef navel, and thin slices of Asia International wagyu chuck. Into the pot you go! Side condiments included hot mustard, ginger scallion sauce, chile oil, black garlic sauce, and the killer sea urchin-fermented tofu. Bring on the funk. Extravaganza!
It was quite the communal experience and pretty hilarious to watch—you had to keep the broth at the right temp (not too hot, not too cool), keep a handle on your ingredients without losing them to the bottom of the pot, and not drop anything into your old-fashioned (whoops).
Throughout the meal, Laurent-Perrier kept our glasses full of Brut Cuvée Rosé (what a gorgeous pairing for this meal), and we also had wines from Augur Wine Co. (Carignan Blanc de Noir Rosé, Redwood Valley 2016) and Lioco (Carignan, Sativa, Mendocino, 2013), plus ice-cold KSA (Kolsch-style ale) from Fort Point Beer and cider from Far West Cider Co. (proper, dry cider).
Dessert from Melissa Chou was a showstopper, with brandied cherry ning gao (in honor of Chinese New Year), plus almond cookies and peanut-sesame cookies. Special pours of Kavalan came out (Kavalan Solist Manzanilla Sherry Single Cask Strength), and the Laurent-Perrier Harmony demi-sec was perfection.
Tremendous thanks to all the wine, spirit, and purveyor sponsors who helped make this event really over the top. So generous. What a showing of quality. (Take a peek at the cocktail menu and dinner menu to see the full lineup and everyone who donated!)
It was wonderful to get a bunch of SF’s best chefs in one room (space was limited, but we invited as many as we could), and it was a great opportunity for many to catch up and for different generations to meet as well. I saw a lot of cards get swapped, and people showing each other their dishes on Instagram. The restaurant industry is an extremely tough business to be in, especially in SF right now, and anything to help make the bonds stronger is better.
It was also an opportunity for Brandon Jew to share his terrifying experience on New Year’s Eve when his sous chef Eric Ehler collapsed from cardiac arrest at the end of service. Fortunately, thankfully, magically, Ehler has pulled through, recovered, and is back in the kitchen.
But Jew doesn’t want any chef or cook to ever go through the terror and panic his team went through in that heart-stopping moment. Through the generous assistance of Yelp Reservations, Mister Jiu’s is going to be holding a CPR class in June, so restaurant industry folks can get trained and have the skills to take care of each other in case disaster strikes; it will hopefully become an ongoing series of CPR training sessions. The chefs in this city work so hard, with all their hearts, so it only makes sense that we help them take care of theirs.
Many thanks to everyone who helped make this such a special and truly heartfelt night. Thanks to all the chefs, who feed us all so well—it was great to feed you for a change. Thank you to Yelp Reservations for giving me the opportunity to continue this special dinner series. And best wishes to Eric in his recovery—salute!
The Family Meal’s two cocktails for the night, courtesy of Hotaling & Co. All photos by Blair Heagerty Photography.