Coi Chef Erik Anderson Talks Pressures of Taking Over a Three-Michelin-Starred Restaurant
Starting a new job is always nerve-wracking. But when your new job is taking over the kitchen at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant, the pressure is especially acute. On Wednesday night, Erik Anderson debuted his new menu at San Francisco's Coi, one of the most esteemed restaurants in the country. He took over from chef/owner Daniel Patterson, who stepped down after chef Matthew Kirkley, now training for Bocuse d’Or, left the resetaurant in November. Anderson, formerly of Nashville's Catbird Seat, is well aware that Kirkley, not him, earned the acclaimed restaurant its three stars, but he hopes his new menu performs at that same level, and that Coi will keep its three stars.
"It keeps you up at night a little bit," Anderson jokes of the pressure. "But I try not to focus on that. My philosophy is: You keep the food at the highest level possible and the service at the highest level possible, and then everything falls in line." He says he only needs to focus on three things: food, wine and service. It's a tiny space, and there's no bar program. "Coi is stripped down to the barest essence of what it should be," he says.
To take on the new role, Anderson moved from Minneapolis to San Francisco, and he confirms that the Bay Area hype is real, gushing about the fantastic products he's found and farmers he's met. While he began working on the menu at a friend's apartment in Brooklyn, everything changed once he was exposed to San Francisco farmers' markets and met local purveyors. The first draft of his menu, compared to where it is now, is "night and day."
"The citrus is here is mind-boggling," Anderson says. "I think this is the best state to cook in the country, product-wise. It's amazing. I'm nervous and excited."
While the menu is 100% his own, he spent time with Kirkley, a good friend and someone he considers to be "one of the best chefs in the country," while working through his ideas.
"I think the menu is a different direction," Anderson says. "I'm trying to stay true to the soul of this restaurant. It's very technique-driven food. Matt had a great deep love of everything from the ocean. I enjoy things that fly quite a bit. The spirit of Coi is change and creativity."
One of Anderson's favorite new dishes on the menu is a Dungeness crab terrine. "It’s a pale white wintery dish, but it's alive with citrus flavors you usually associate with yellow and greens colors," he says. There's also a torte with sweet breads and foie gras, and soon, he plans to start serving pressed prigeon, using his prized 120-year-old duck press.
"I by no means consider myself a three-star chef," Anderson says. "But maybe next October, if we’re fortunate enough, we’ll be able to keep the three."