Chef James Syhabout

 
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I have known James for years, his culinary skills are well above my pay grade, opening the restaurant of his dreams Commis in his home city of Oakland. All while driving this passion to make delicious food in a town he loves inspires me everyday. Ok I will just say it James you rock!!

Born in Ubonratchathani,Thailand and raised in Oakland, California,James Syhabout is the Chef/Proprietor of Commis, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Oakland since 2010; Hawker Fare, with both Oakland and San Franciscooutposts; and casual, beer-centric restaurant, The Dock, in West Oakland. Named “Best New Chef” in2010by the eponymousFood &Winemagazine,Syhabouthas been recognized not only for his skill and dedication to the culinary arts, but for reviving the dining scene in his hometown of Oakland.Before opening Commis and Hawker Fare, Syhaboutformally studied at California Culinary Academy inSan Franciscoand developed his craftat numerous Michelin starred restaurants around the globe,beginning asChef de Partie at Manresa(Los Gatos, California). Within a few months, Syhabout advanced toSous Chef,where his close workwith Chef David Kinchinspired hisinterest in different European cuisines and international culinary practices. After two years at Manresa, Syhabout ventured out to continue hisculinary education in Europe, where he worked with Chef Heston Blumenthal atThe Fat Duck(Bray, United Kingdom), followed by Mugaritz in the Basque country, near San Sebastian(Gizpuzkoa, Spain), while experiencing numerous Michelin-starredmeals along the way.Syhabout stayed in Spain as Chef de Partie at Alkimia(Barcelona, Spain) cooking new Catalan cuisine, before spending a season at Ferran Adria’s ground breaking restaurantEl Bulli(Roses, Spain). Following his continued culinary travels through France and Italy, Syhabout returned to Manresa as a consultant training, working, sharing and developing new ideas from his experiencesabroad. In 2006,Syhabout worked with Chef Daniel Patterson to open Coi(San Francisco, California), providing him with the invaluable experience of opening a restaurant, from building codes and menu development, to inventory and the hiring and training of staff. Following Coi, Syhabout was scouted by the Plumpjack Group in 2006 to fill the Executive Chef position at their flagship restaurant, Plumpjack Café(San Francisco, California). Within the first year, he earned a ravethree and half star review from Michael Bauer in the San Francisco Chronicleand was recognized as a “Rising Star Chef”by San Francisco Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle and StarChefs.Com. With Syhabout at the helm,Plumpjack Café became one of the top draws for dining out in the San Francisco Bay Area as voted by Food & Wine magazine and was propelled back onto the Top 100 restaurant list compiled by San Francisco Chronicle.After accumulating numerous accolades at Plumpjack Cafe, Syhabout was recruited back to Manresa in the highly coveted role of Chef de Cuisine. His returnto Manresa was largely motivated bythe restaurant’s involvement with Love Apple Farms and grower Cynthia Sandberg.The biodynamic farm provides bountiful heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, edibleflowers and seeds grown solely for the restaurant. Syhabout’s involvement with the farm was a collaborative effort with Cynthia, focused on finding seeds of rare varietals and selectingwhat to grow for the restaurant through the changing seasons. Hisexperience working with Cynthia shaped his vision when developing menuswith a truefarm-to-plateapproach.In 2010, Syhabout’s travels, studies and varied culinary experiences culminated in the launch of his first restaurant, Commis, the first fine-dining restaurant in Oakland, which was promptly awarded with one Michelin star a mere months after opening. In stark contrast to Commis, Syhabout opened Hawker Fare in 2011, in the very Oakland location of his mother’s former restaurant, serving the Laotian Thai food he grew up with in a casual setting. Next came Box & Bells Eating House and The Dock(later to becomeOld Kan), both in Oakland, followed by the 2015 openingof a Hawker Fare San Francisco, and new Hawker Fare offshoot, Hawking Bird, in Oakland’s Temescal area in December 2017. Syhabout currently operates Commis, Hawker Fare San Francisco, Old Kan and Hawking Bird. His first cookbook, Hawker Fare: Stories & Recipes from a Refugee Chef’s Thai Isan & Lao Roots, is released in January 2018 under Anthony Bourdain’s Ecco imprint.Additionally, Syhabouthasappeared on The Food Network’s “Iron Chef America”twice,asSous Chef forbothMourad Lahlou and David Kinch,aiding them in achievingtriumphant victories.

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