From San Francisco:
The Accidental Chef
Susan Dyer Reynolds
Sitting down for some Ipswich clams at his Yankee Pier restaurant in SFO's San Francisco Marketplace, Bradley Ogden is the very picture of laid back. Things couldn't be going better—his original restaurant, The Lark Creek Inn, is a perennial Bay Area favorite, as is his follow-up venture, One Market. Outposts of Lark Creek, One Market and his upscale New England clam shack, Yankee Pier, are popping up all over the Bay Area, and his well-received Parcel 104 has brought a touch of class and fine dining to an unlikely place: the Marriott Hotel in Santa Clara. This, perhaps more than any other restaurant, speaks volumes about Ogden's magic, though his eponymous restaurant in Las Vegas rates a close second. His first venture outside of California, Bradley Ogden at Caesars Palace has racked up accolades including the 2004 James Beard Award for best new restaurant (the first Las Vegas restaurant to receive the prestigious award).
A native of Traverse City, Michigan and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York, Ogden first rose to prominence in 1983 at Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco, where he gained a reputation as a pioneer of American cuisine. He left in 1989 to open The Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, and won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: California in 1993.
What is your first memory of cooking?
BO: Visiting my grandma's farm in Windsor, Ontario, with my twin brother when we were about 5 years old. Seeing her twist the chicken's heads, hang them on the line—that was dinner. Roasted chicken, tomatoes on the vines, pies on the sill. I remember using the twin trick: "Did you eat that second piece of pie?" "No, my brother did!"
Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
BO: It was a fluke I got into the business. My dad owned the Tanz Haus—this big rock and roll joint. There were seven kids—he figured it would be this big family restaurant. I saw this article in the Detroit Free Press about the CIA, and I was off to chef school a year later—I figured I could always get a job. My twin brother went too, but he dropped out after four months. It came easily to me; it clicked. I loved it.
What is your proudest cooking, food or restaurant moment?
BO: When my two sons went through the CIA. I tried to talk them out of it. True story. I gave a speech at graduation and we did a demo together, and in the film room with the cameras and our names up there it hit me that my sons really were following in my footsteps. Chad worked at Danielle in New York and is now in Tokyo, and Bryan is chef de cuisine at Bradley Ogden in Vegas. My third son is in med school.
What is the biggest misconception about Chef Bradley Ogden?
BO: That I have lots of restaurants and therefore lots of money. (Smiles) I look good on paper.
What is your favorite ingredient?
BO: Balsamic vinegar.
What is your least favorite ingredient?
If you weren't a chef and could be anything, what would you be?
BO: A professional golfer.
The Lark Creek Inn
234 Magnolia Ave.
Larkspur, CA 94939
Dyer Reynolds is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Northside