5 Chefs of the Moment

| August 5, 2019 | Food & Drink Restaurants Features

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1. William Roberts, Taverna Taverna exemplifies Hellenic hospitality and Bay Area native chef William Roberts (Michael Mina, The Village Pub, Dio Deka) infuses it with his own formative experiences. “Hunting and fishing with my father, I learned the entire process of where food comes from—life to death, harvest to fork. It informed me of all the work and respect for life and ingredients that go into great meals,” he says. His Mount Lassen trout atop orzo with shellfish and a frothy saffron sauce represents Taverna’s Mediterranean ethos. 800 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650.304.3840

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2. Michael Riddell, Porta Blu Riddell, a Bay Area native and California Culinary Academy in San Francisco graduate, spent a decade at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, stoking his appreciation for the farmers and ranchers of Silicon Valley. His signature entree is locally caught broiled Monterey black cod with pickled apricots, sauteed mustard greens and serrano crisps. “This dish embodies Porta Blu’s California coastal inspired cuisine, while also highlighting seasonal ingredients.” Hotel Nia, 200 Independence Drive, Menlo Park, 650.304.3800

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3. Simona Oliveri, Oak + Violet Chef Simona Oliveri majored in architecture in college, but her childhood on the family farm in Italy was the blueprint for her culinary career. “It brings me joy to design food for people while showing them how something so basic, like zucchini, can be so beautiful and delicious!” she says. The restaurant’s muted violet tones complement her signature stuffed whole branzino. “It’s filled with an amazing abundance of flavors," she says. "Savory and sweet, while visually colorful.” Park James Hotel, 1400 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650.304.3880

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4. Nick Difu, Nick's Next Door Perfection drives chef Nick Difu, whose first eatery opened in 2008 and whose Soda Works Bar debuts this summer. Duck confit is a signature dish. “As a chef going to school, I was told that whenever you see this on the menu, that’s what you order,” he says. “If a chef can’t make a good duck dish, forget it.” Difu, whose family members were divers, is also known for his exquisite abalone, noting: “People see abalone on my menu and they flash back to childhood. Everyone has a story: That’s what Nick’s is all about.” 11 College Ave., Los Gatos, 408.402.5053

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5. Jimmy Shimizu, Ozumo Chef Jimmy Shimizu credits his uncle, who owned a hotel in Japan, for sparking his culinary career. Shimizu has been a chef and tuna buyer in Japan and Northern California, and Ozumo is a long way from his early days, where hardcore chefs hit him in the back of the head with a spatula and ladle. “I learned that a happy environment creates happy food,” he says. His Yokozuna steak, a 1-pound Mishima-American wagyu ribeye with garlic-butter ponzu, is the perfect example of simple happiness. 355 Santana Row, San Jose, 408.886.3090

Originally published in the July/August issue of Silicon Valley

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Photography by: Photos: Courtesy of Taverna; Chris Schmauch/Courtesy Of Hotel Nia; Slay The Giant; Daniel Dardanelli 5. Courtesy Of Ozumo LLC