One of the joys of cooking is hobnobbing with others who share my passion. Over the past 15 years, via this column and my involvement with the Historical Society’s events, I have become acquainted with the chefs, cooks and kitchen staffs of our local restaurants, and I appreciate their talents and products.
It is fun to be behind the scenes when possible. As I traveled around the world, there also were times when I also had opportunities not readily afforded to others.
My sister, who admits she does not cook, found a site on Facebook that she shares so frequently that the chef/webmaster invited her to lunch at his workplace in San Francisco.
Brian Mattingly, executive chef for the Dropbox Tuck Shop, is such a marvelous food stylist that he has us both wildly enthusiastic about the beautiful creations he posts each week. I contacted him, and he invited me along. What a joy that turned out to be for us to sit and enjoy a unique meal with this congenial fellow!
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The corporate lunchroom breaks with tradition, with its efficient stations for the 1,300 employees to pick up the day’s offerings free of charge at stations for salad, entrée, desserts, pasta and pizza and a vegetarian option. Breakfast and dinner are also available, all beautifully prepared. I found it hard to choose from the impressive array, as I would have walked off with the three-dimensional chicken salad with a tall portion of rice noodles.
Instead, I was attracted to what looked like an individual beef or pork tenderloin, sliced thinly to reveal the tender pink center with beautifully browned end cuts. It turned out to be lamb knuckles, artfully marinated and roasted, served with quinoa salad with lentils, cucumber and a creamy lime dressing topped with pine nuts, and naan with hummus. It was so satisfying that I passed up the dessert tray of fresh lime meringue tarts and strawberry shortcakes.
The Middle Eastern offering is not unusual for Brian, who is celebrating the third anniversary of Tuck Box, which he established and designed, and for which he has full authority. With his 32 assistant chef/cooks, he is proud of never repeating a dish, even with popular response. He has such a huge repertoire of international and American cuisine, with variations and choices of the finest ingredients available daily, that the combinations are exponential.
Planning for any given meal can take up to two weeks, including his assistants and buyers. He demonstrates pride in his staff, saying that though they may move on, they do so with his blessing and “with my fingerprint upon.”
Born in Israel and raised in London, he traveled and worked extensively in Europe, refining his craft, which was codified at the California Culinary Academy.
He is now traveling again for three weeks in Europe, doubtlessly garnering fresh new ideas.
I may not get back to San Francisco very soon and so must be content to feast my eyes at www.facebook.com/DropBoxTuckShop.
Meanwhile, I will whip up a pedestrian batch of topping for baguettes at our next Historical Society Speaker’s Night on July 30. See you at the Great Kitchens of Cambria Tour on July 25.
- 1 16-oz. brick of cream cheese
Beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Squeeze and drain the shredded cucumber and mix in with the seasonings. Serve aside a basket of lightly toasted bread slices. (Makes tasty little tea sandwiches, also.)