Chef Joshua Skenes of Saison

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Chef Joshua Skenes of Saison has come a long way from his experimental pop-up in 2009. With sommelier and co-owner Mark Bright, Skenes mastered his way into Saison’s first brick and mortar in San Francisco’s Mission district within one year. His 12-24 course menu and unconventional cooking method – drawing flavors through the use of fire – earned a number of accolades, including Michelin’s two-star rating in 2012 and 2013.

A new season is bringing bigger and better things for Saison. After three years in the Mission location, Saison is moving into a brand new space South of Market (SoMA) where Skenes hopes to provide a more luxurious dining experience with an intimate open layout.

 I’m usually eating catfish spring rolls at a neighborhood Vietnamese joint. I keep it simple and spicy.

On the heels of Saison’s reopening, Chef Skenes sat down with Haute Living to discuss his inspiration, his cooking and his fancy new space.

How did you get started in the industry?
My first job was as a dishwasher in a Japanese restaurant when I was 15. I worked in various restaurants as a teenager. Then I went to Boston right out of high school to go to art school, but I didn’t go to art school and wound up at culinary school. That was it from there.

What is the inspiration for your cooking, and how did you become so adept with fire cooking techniques?
I think it was from camping growing up. It was always the smell of lighting a campfire early in the morning. When I started cooking with fire, it was about flavor.

What dishes are you best known for?
Hopefully everything. Recently we’ve been aging meats and fish. We’ve had Brassicas on our menu forever. Raw fish and seafood are also favorites. I don’t think there’s one thing in particular.

Where can we find you dining when you’re not running your restaurant?
I’m usually eating catfish spring rolls at a neighborhood Vietnamese joint. I keep it simple and spicy.

What is the secret to your success?
Hard work. We just want to make a genuine, honest presentation of materials. We want everything to feel good here.

What are your top 5 ingredients you can’t do without?
Seaweed and fish.

What are the top 5 ingredients one should have in their fridge?
Seaweed, fish, fish sauce – there are a lot of different kinds out there, meyer lemons and green vegetables.

What are you looking forward to most in the new space?
A big kitchen. It’s everything. It’s nice to break down the walls and have complete transparency in the space. It’s about having everything we need to do our very best.

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