San Francisco is a town fuelled by good food. The city’s illustrious food scene bursts with innovation and creativity at every turn; always ahead of the curve when it comes to new ways of thinking about what we eat and how we eat it. San Francisco pioneered the now flourishing farm-to-table ethos way back in the 1970s, a movement spearheaded by prominent culinary figures including Alice Waters, executive chef and founder of Chez Panisse.
State Bird Provisions has now picked up the gauntlet and is currently leading the charge as one of San Francisco’s most inventive and forward-thinking restaurants. This reputation was what caught the attention of the restaurant’s sous chef, Gaby Maeda. ‘I’d never been before, but I knew that I wanted to check it out,’ she explains. When State Bird Provisions opened its doors in 2011, it offered a completely new and unique dining concept: small plates of carefully balanced, locally-sourced food served fast and informally from dim sum carts and trays which constantly circulate the restaurant. ‘There’s just trays, on trays, on trays of food passing and it’s just nuts!’ says Gaby. ‘It’s a really cool experience, especially for a diner.’
The open kitchen amplifies this original culinary experience further, allowing diners to observe the chefs in action. Cooking in full view of a restaurant brimming with guests may sound like a daunting task, but it actually has the opposite effect and makes for a ‘very fun working environment’, Gaby explains. ‘The big part of State Bird Provisions is engaging with people and engaging with the guests,’ she elaborates, ‘and helps you to become a much more ‘well-rounded chef. You have to be able to cook, keep yourself and your station clean, and also still be able to pour water for guests.’
This revolutionary style of service has proven an overwhelming success with diners. Every night swathes of people can be seen queuing along the pavement outside on Fillmore Street in the hope of snagging a prime walk-in spot at the chef’s table. The anticipation is palpable, so much so that as soon as the doors open at 5:30pm the restaurant is full of energy.