Campton Place the restaurant at Campton Place Taj Hotel San Francisco has an illustrious history in San Francisco. Many celebrated chefs have passed through the kitchen, including Laurent Manrique, Jan Birnbaum, Bradley Ogden, Daniel Humm, Todd Humphries and Peter Rudolph. The restaurant added an Indian flair to the menu when the Taj took over the hotel and Executive Chef Sri Gopinathan took the helm. The restaurant has flown a bit under the radar for the last few years, but now it's back in the spotlight. Michelin just awarded Campton Place a star in their 2011 guide.
Chef Sri Gopinathan, who hails from Southern India, trained at the CIA Hyde Park and apprenticed in the kitchen of Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones at the famed Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, in Oxford, England, a Michelin 2 star restaurant.
Since Campton Place is sure to be on the list for local and visiting foodies, I checked in with the chef to learn more about him and his cooking.
How would you describe your food? My style of cooking is French California with a subtle Spice Route influence.
What is your signature dish or dishes? Most of my dishes have my signature -- a subtle use of spices -- but I have an emotional attachment to one dish in particular. It is butter poached lobster with basmati crisp, a coconut curry sauce and cilantro. This preparation reminds me of home; it has typical southern Indian flavor but a French cooking technique.
How has your cooking been influenced by San Francisco and California? I love the produce available here -- really some of the best produce in the world is from here! Also there is a really great group of chefs in the Bay Area and the area offers a wonderful, and challenging, culinary platform for me. The area is full of amazing farmers, artisans in baking and cheese-making, vintners… and the list goes on and on of people who are very influencing, inspiring and motivating.
What are your greatest sources of culinary inspiration? This is really simple: I’m inspired by fresh, seasonal produce…and there’s nothing like what is grown here in Northern California. And secondly, my 90-year old grandmother’s cooking.
What do you like most about living in the Bay Area? I’ve never lived in a part of the world that has so many people interested in food and wine. It’s a dynamic influence on me…really everyone is so passionate about what they literally bring to the table.
What are your three favorite Bay Area restaurants? Oh, and now a hard question to answer! SPQR, Yank Sing and, of course, The French Laundry.
–Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy