Yesterday marked a vindication of sorts for chef James Syhabout, the studied and highly talented young chef at Oakland's ten-month-old Commis. Being named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs for 2010 is just the kind of boost a chef needs in a week in which he was also left off of Michael Bauer's compendium of best restaurants. And this accolade also comes in a year during which Syhabout brought the biggest foodie honor to the non-Berkeley East Bay by winning Oakland's first Michelin star.
As SF Weekly critic Jonathan Kauffman writes, Syhabout "is doing exactly the kind of inventive, iconoclastic cooking [that Food & Wine] tends to reward." And we should give Bauer credit for recognizing Syhabout's talent early on, giving him three and a half stars during his tenure at Plumpjack Café, and a Rising Star Chef honor in 2007.
For those who don't know, the name for Syhabout's first solo restaurant on Oakland's Piedmont Avenue comes from the lowest rung of the kitchen ladder: an apprentice who's in the kitchen to learn and do the dirtiest prep work. As Syhabout told Grub Street, the name symbolizes everything he's about as a chef. "It's about always thinking of myself as a commis. Everyone in the kitchen should. We should always be learning, growing, discovering new things."
As apprentice himself to the likes of David Kinch, Daniel Patterson, and Ferran Adria, Syhabout has clearly earned a wealth of knowledge not to mention street cred. We congratulate him on pushing the envelope, food-wise, right into some national magazine love.
Earlier: Kauffman Digs Commis [Grub Street]
Jeremy Fox Cooks His First Non-Vegetarian Meal in Three Years [Grub Street]
Commis Set to Take Over East Bay [Grub Street]