You may remember Chef Casey Thompson as a finalist on Bravo TV’s Top Chef Season 3. Since then, the Texas native returned to her home state to work under famed Texas chef Dan Fearing before becoming executive chef at Shinsei in Dallas. She made her way to the Bay Area six years ago, and has spent her time working at wineries and as a private chef in Napa. Well today is a new day, and Thompson is bringing new life into San Francisco’s Theatre District with the opening of Aveline at the Warwick Hotel. She paused from a very busy afternoon to talk with Haute Living about what’s on her plate today.
Do you ever pow-wow with the other Top Chef contestants that are now in San Francisco?
Oh yeah, Ryan (Scott) is one of my best friends. We’re very close and I can text him right now and ask him, “Hey, what’s the name of that purveyor,” or “What’s a good place to eat tonight?”. When I first moved here, he took me around and showed me everything, and we just hung out. I haven’t seen Jennifer (Biesty) lately, but we hung out when I was getting to know the city. We get together when there’s events and things.
How did you end up here at the Warwick Hotel?
This was an email that came to me two years ago. Warwick International wanted to have a conversation with me, and when I came in, they started talking about how they wanted to re-do it all and start new. They were looking for someone who was up-and-coming that could help them launch something new and fresh. That was two years ago and we worked together to get this going.
What is the concept of Aveline?
I’m not from here, but I’ve lived out here for six years. I’d fallen in love with the area and gotten to know my Bay Area. But I noticed a trend, where you were getting similar things at many restaurants. So I wanted to combine my Texas upbringing, which was big, bold flavors – not being afraid to put spice on the menu – but wanting it to be California beautiful. I wanted people to have that California experience that we’re calling “new Californian,” because it’s all the things that we’ve had for years, but in a different way. I wanted this to be an experience of the way I like to dine and the way I like to eat. Hopefully people will enjoy it.
You’re doing Top Chef at Sea; what made you want to cook onboard a cruise line?
I did it last year and it was fun! It was a bit daunting knowing that you’re gonna be on a boat with 3000 Top Chef fans, and there’s no escape. It was a bit challenging at times, but I still remain close to Top Chef. I’m here for a reason and they are a big part of my success. This one coming up is major because they’re launching a new port here and they were really excited to have me be a part of it.
What are your favorite restaurants and bars in San Francisco?
One of my favorite restaurants in the city is Kokkari. I think a lot of chefs love that place. It’s so good, plain and simple. I also like Rich Table; it’s chef-driven but casual. I like to have a drink at Prospect. We also go to Rye, Tradition, Smugglers Cove and Flower + Water. I wish you could just pop into some of these place, but it’s hard to get into some of them!