Q: What part of food/beverage/hospitality are you most passionate about? How have you seen that facet of the industry change or shift in recent years?
AB: I've worked in restaurants since was 13 years old, and still, in general I think restaurant work is a damn cool job. Restaurant work creates a comradery and bond amongst teammates that I think is very unique. So many of my most important friendships have been forged in the restaurant world. We get the chance every night to host people and offer up something of ourselves. I love sharing something I'm passionate about with guests, whether it's a cool steak or dish on the menu or a fun, funky wine they've never had. I often reflect on special, memorable and impactful dinners I have had in my life, and how much I value those memories. It reminds me that every night during service, we don't have control over who comes in the door or what they're going through, good or bad, but we have the opportunity to create a special memory for them. And I love just being around good food and good wine in general. Both with food and beverages (wine, beer, spirits, etc.), there's always something new to learn, and things are constantly changing. I love the intersection of history, culture, craft, and tradition. And I love teaching my peers and trying to pass on the things in the food and wine world I'm passionate about. I'm passionate about teaching because it solidifies one's skill. It's one thing to learn something yourself, but if you can pass that skill or knowledge on to someone else, that's when you really know that skill.
I've enjoyed seeing trends in the beverage side of the industry shift and change. In general, I think the level of knowledge and openness and willingness to try something unique of guests has greatly increased. Craft cocktails, natural wines, hazy ipa's...these are all things now that are pretty common vocabulary that were once cutting edge. Because there's more knowledge of the vastness of styles of beer, wine and spirits, it allows us to continue forging that trend ahead night to night, as folks are more willing to experiment when you share with them the story of a cool beer wine or spirit.
Q: What kinds of things are you passionate about outside of work?
AB: Talking about food, gardening and restaurants with my Wife (also in the restaurant industry). Hanging out with my Son and playing Magic the Gathering, baseball or basketball. Practicing Kung Fu. Basketball. Gardening, although these days, gardening means just trying to keep up with my various fruit trees and vines (figs, quinces, mulberries, plums, grapes) which are all close to 10 years old and pump out more fruit than we can handle in the summer. Rap Music. Hiking. Fishing. Mushroom foraging. Traveling whenever I get the chance. Vintage basketball shoes. Flower ties and accessory shopping. All things Oakland California.
Q: What is your “last meal” comprised of?
AB: To begin, a charcuterie plate of Serrano ham, Spanish style cured Chorizo, liver mousse, bouquerones with piparras and olives. Some crusty Campagne bread and green olive oil. This would be consumed with a bottle of Tempier Bandol Blanc. Then, a simple bowl of handmade pappardelle with olive oil, lots of wild mushrooms (ideally boletes, cauliflower mushrooms, maitakes and matsutakes) garlic, lemon and herbs and a salad of baby spicy greens (mustards) dressed with lemon and olive oil. With this, I'd drink an old but bright bottle of nebbiolo from the Valtellina or a bright, tart and funky Pinot Noir from the Valle d'Aoste or the Valais as well as a green Oolong tea. To finish, sheep's milk cheese with good honey and a glass of a very old Palo Cortado Sherry. Finally, a shot of Fernet and I'm ready to go.