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It wasn't about better food, but happier cooks.
To give you a sense of the transformation that Rich Table's kitchen has undergone, chef and co-owner Evan Rich has a story.
“The way we got our old plancha when we opened [four years ago] was by trading the restaurant’s existing fryer to a guy who sold used equipment,” Evan says. “He gave us the plancha and $300, so essentially he paid us to take it.”
Cooks crowded around that plancha during service, and the pasta guy jury-rigged a system for heating up and tossing out water with the pasta boiler donated by Rich’s old boss, Michael Tusk of Quince. Strewn all over the kitchen were extension cords to keep things running. When a restaurant's opening budget can only accomodate $10,000 for the kitchen, this is what's necessary.
Still, that scrappy set-up turned out porcini doughnuts glazed with raclette, slippery chitarra lamb kebabs and so many other fantastic and whimsical dishes that put the Rich Table on the San Francisco restaurant map. And after years of constantly reimagining their menu (current focus: spices), Evan and his co-chef, co-owner and wife Sarah Rich have finally done the same with their kitchen.
“Finding good cooks these days is very difficult,” Evan says. “Anything that we can do to show that our restaurant is a professional environment that takes itself seriously helps us get talented people to work at Rich Table.”
So back in July, they ripped out everything and poured more than 20 times their original kitchen budget into a new dream kitchen complete with new floors, new stainless steel tables and all new equipment including a plancha and pasta machine. (“The pasta cook is a very happy person,” Sarah says.) And all with their cooks in mind.
“The first day of prep I was out dealing with something and I got a text from our chef de cuisine Brandon Rice and it went something like...’This is amazing,’ and then another text, ‘Man, this is so amazing, I can't tell you enough how great this is,’" Evan says.
“The thing is that cooks are going to grind. They’re going to do whatever it takes to get the job done,” Sarah adds. “But this is already a hard job, and we don’t need to make it harder for them, so that’s why we did it.”
When Rich Table reopened in August, its cooks had more space to work and found motivation to grind even harder.