On Friday, June 12, Kyle Itani will serve Beard House diners the Japanese-influenced American fare that earned his restaurant Hopscotch a rave review from the San Francisco Chronicle and a Michelin recommendation. For this dinner, he's preparing a meal ranging from elevated takes on childhood favorites to the latest creations on his restaurant's menu. We spoke to him about his favorite foods, the inspiration behind his Beard House menu, and what his next travel destination will be.
What is your inspiration behind the menu for this Beard House event?
Bringing the flavors and history of Japanese-American food into the spotlight. Also, to bring a snapshot of what my incredible staff does each night in Oakland.
What's a dish on your Beard House event menu that you're especially excited about or proud of, and why?
[The appetizer] nanbanzuke fish pickles. I am excited to use the bounty of seafood on the East Coast and find the best fish for this preparation. The idea of it comes from my Japanese grandma's house. She would keep a Tupperware full of these pickled fish, and we'd just eat them as a snack. I'm proud of how I've elevated the dish over the years.
What’s your earliest food memory?
It was a freezing cold, rainy day and we were trying to play a little league game. The game got called and my dad took me to this Japanese restaurant where I had miso soup that warmed me right to my bones. Miso soup is my ultimate comfort food.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration?
[San Francisco chef] Shotaro Kamio. He mentored me through three restaurants over seven years. [Ed. note: Kamio cooked at the Beard House last month.]
Tell us about the last great meal you ate.
Liholiho Yacht Club just opened in San Francisco. Not only does Chef Ravi's heritage come through in the [Hawaiian-Chinese] food but his sense of hospitality does as well. It was really inspiring.
What’s your dream destination for food travel, and why?
Vietnam. I love Asian food, but I'm excited to see the French influence on the food there.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I first started cooking, I was advised to make peace with the fact that a hot dog vendor on the corner will make more money than me for many years, and that pride would be my greatest compensation.
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