After his sweeping meatball madness win at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic’s Best New Chefs Dinner, chef Nate Appleman recently sat down with San Francisco’s Grub Street to talk food and business – as well as those pesky winning meatballs. Appleman is an Ohio native who manages two Italian restaurants in the San Francisco area, A16 and SPQR, and already has a James Beard Rising Star Chef award under his belt.
A few of my fave tidbits from his interview:
Q: Speaking of food both more refined and less: At the Food & Wine Best New Chefs dinner, many of your fellow honorees were cooking far more ambitious food than you were. Chris Kostow was cooking a layered roasted-corn custard, for example. But there you were serving meatballs. Is this a testament to what we’re eating today?
A: Food & Wine picked the meatballs from a couple of options I sent them, but I was more than happy to serve them. They kind of put us on the map five years ago. But I feel like it’s a testament to what we’re going to be eating for a long time. Look at the Cheesecake Factory: That place prints money. Why? Because people like cheesecake. People are going to be eating cheesecake until the end of time. I can’t necessarily say that people are going to be eating foams till the end of time. But I do know for certain that taste in America, and the eating habits of Americans, are for the most part simple. I’m serving just a meatball on a plate.
Q: Looking at your menus, Mario Batali comes to mind. And looking at your awards, you’re following in the footsteps of David Chang. Do you want to be as famous as these chefs?
A: What Batali has done for for Italian food in America is like the greatest thing that’s ever happened. Batali opening Po and Babbo — that set everyone on the trend of Italian food, I think. [As for me,] I would love a small empire. Do I want to be hugely famous? Absolutely not. But I want to keep spreading the word about what we’re doing. It’s not only about food. It’s the way we treat our employees. I want to keep those same things intact as we grow. I don’t want to grow too big to the point where we can’t do that.
You can read the rest of Nate’s interview with SF’s Grub Street here, as well as his recent Q&A with Slashfood here.
[Editor’s Note: Just after we posted this, Nate announced his departure from A16 and SPQR. Is he NYC-bound?]