Nate Appleman is executive chef and co-owner of San Francisco's A16 and SPQR restaurants. He was recently named rising star chef at the James Beard Foundation Awards, one of the USA's most prestigious culinary accolades. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn.
CatererHow do you feel having won the James Beard award?
Nate Appleman I feel really pleased and very proud. It's the biggest culinary achievement of my career so far. Having all the hard work I have put in over the years recognised by my peers in this way means that everything I have done has been worth it.
CatererWhen did youfirstdecide to become a chef?
NA I decided to become a chef at a very early age. I've always really been into food and as a kid I used to watch all of the cookery shows on television. I went on a trip to Italy to work as an apprentice for six months and, during that time, I really fell in love with authentic, regional Italian cuisine.
CatererTell us about your cooking styleand the influences on it?
NA I would say it's rustic, regional Italian cooking with a focus on sustainability, both in terms of using all of the different cuts of an animal and using seasonal produce. For so long, Italian food in the USA has been bastardised by Italian descendants in New Jersey and New York, who have changed it from what it should be. My aim is to return to the roots of regional authentic Italian cooking. Food inspires me; I love eating and I find inspiration in every meal I eat, whether it's Italian or Chinese, it doesn't matter.
CatererNew York is famous for its fine-diningexperience. How does the San Francisco scene compare?
NA New York is very much about fine dining and there's a focus on the whole package from the service to the cutlery to the presentation and often it's really over the top. San Francisco, and indeed northern California, is a lot more relaxed and laid-back and the emphasis is much more on the food and the flavour. Service comes second.
CatererYou recently published a cook book called A16 Food and Wine. What's it about?
NA It tells the story of the restaurant by way of the food and wine of southern Italy. The first half of the book is all about wine and explores the eight grape-growing areas of the region, while the second half is all about the food we serve at the restaurant.
NA We're opening an A16 restaurant in Tokyo in the autumn and also have plans for a third restaurant in San Francisco. A16 is focused on the regional cuisine of Campagna and southern Italy, while SPQR specialises in dishes from Rome and Lazio, the region around the Italian capital. The new restaurant in San Francisco will serve dishes from the region of Le Marche in central Italy.