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From San Francisco:

Ben de Vries
Cooking to Comfort and Cure
by Susan Dyer Reynolds

Chef Ben de Vries of Luella Restaurant

At a very young age, Ben de Vries knew he wanted to become a chef. In pursuit of his dream, he enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute. After fine-tuning his culinary craft at various restaurants on both the East and West Coasts, including Andalu in San Francisco, the driven young chef realized his childhood ambition with the opening of Luella, a Mediterranean eatery on sophisticated Russian Hill. Here he serves items such as Coca-Cola-braised pork shoulder, lamb sugo on house-made pasta and orange fritters dipped in wild honey to a loyal clientele. He recently sat down with The Food Paper’s Susan Reynolds for some foodie chit chat.

The Food Paper: Who or what was your biggest cooking influence?
Ben de Vries: Max Von Hartman, this old German chef at a ranch. He did 150 covers a night. I went to the ranch when I was 18 and it changed my life. He passed away, but he saw me get through culinary school and he was very proud.

TFP: Why did you become a chef?
BD: Because it makes people happy. I think most chefs feel that way. We’re all insecure. But I’ve wanted this my whole life. One night at the dinner table when I was six, I told my mother I would like to be a chef and have my own restaurant.

TFP: Proudest cooking or restaurant moment?
BD: Feeding my grandma opening night at Luella. She’s 82 and still going strong, traveling the world. She’s also my biggest cooking influence after Max.

TFP: Favorite ingredient?
BD:
Limes. When I was 16, I spent six months in Paris. I remember going to a Caribbean restaurant that belonged to a friend of my mom who was from Martinique—that was the first time that I experienced bright flavors like that.

TFP: Least favorite ingredient?
BD: Those tiny shrimp…bay shrimp. They have no flavor whatsoever.

TFP: If you weren't a chef, what would you be?
BD: In prison [laughs]. I had a lot of angst as a kid, but before I turned 18 I got turned around, thank goodness. If I wasn’t a chef? Probably construction, or maybe an architect. I really have no idea—I couldn’t be anything else.

Luella
1896 Hyde St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
415-674-4343

Susan Dyer Reynolds is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Northside San Francisco.


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