Chef Bradley Ogden Interview

He began his career at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York.
Graduating in 1977, with honors, he was the recipient of the Richard T. Keating Award given to the student most likely to succeed.
And succeed he has!!
Chef Bradley Ogden was inducted into the Who’s Who of American Cooking by Cooks Magazine; he was chosen as one of the Great American Chefs by the International Wine And Food Society, awarded the Golden Plate Award by the American Academy of Achievement and been named Best California Chef by the prestigious James Beard Foundation.
His first cookbook Bradley Ogden’s Breakfast, Lunch And Dinner published by Random House in 1991 won the prestigious International Association of Culinary Professionals Award.
Bradley Ogden is also the chef and co-owner of The Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, Marin County California; One Market Restaurant in San Francisco, California; and Lark Creek Café in Walnut Creek, California and San Mateo, California.
It’s a real treat to present an interview with one of the finest chefs around today-----Chef Bradley Ogden.

Q – How many restaurants do you supervise? It would seem that just one restaurant would be time consuming.
A – Well, we have four restaurants. You’re probably right-----one is probably time consuming. There’s no question about that. (Laughs). With all chefs and restaurateurs I think they want to continue to expand the repertoire in other areas. Our whole big thing is in training and developing and having opportunities for the staff that works for us. We really gear it toward that and I think it’s really important for us to train great staff so they can develop and grow professionally. And, we have the opportunities in business with us so they don’t go someplace else. Obviously there are a lot of people that have worked for me and gone on to do great things. From my perspective of having other restaurants, it gives us the opportunity to put people in places that have been with us for awhile and want to continue to grow and expand their skills.

Q – Is it, what we would call an experience to dine out at the Lark Creek Inn, and why would that be?
A – Yeah. I think it’s an experience. People save up their pennies all year long, not that it’s not that expensive, but, there’s just a high expectation when they come in our doors. There are people that come in here once a year. Being that The Lark Creek Inn is in this wonderful historical country setting in these beautiful lush gardens that we have from the moment they enter the driveway and see this, there’s an expectation of sort of a homey feeling. You get out of the car and smell these wonderful pines. Of course, the fireplace going . The wood-burning oven. It’s sort of just warmth when you come into the restaurant. They would expect that from our service staff as well as from the hostess to the phone people. And, that’s the beginning of it. Then obviously the most important thing is the service, the education that we give to the waiters, they know about food and wine and to respond to the customer needs. That goes out to the back of the house as well. So, we have to give them this warm, homey feeling to every aspect of their meal.

Q – Do you get celebrities in the restaurant?
A- We get every celebrity from the music industry to pretty famous actors. There’s quite a few actors that live in the Bay Area now that come into the restaurant.

Q – Are you able to name names or is that against policy?
A – Well, I sort of don’t like to because a lot of people come here because they can be low key. They come in here and know they can be low key. I’m good friends with Huey Lewis. We have people from all backgrounds that come into the restaurant.

Q – The International Wine And Food Society chose you as one of the Great American Chefs. What did you feel when you won that award? Were you humbled or did you feel it’s about time?
A – It was certainly an honor and a great acknowledgement. My main goal has always been to produce wonderful great food that’s nutritious, that’s tastefully done. Also, my other goal is to make every meal perfect. So, if we’re given the acknowledgement, it’s a great honor in my respect. It has humbled me. We’re always learning and we’re always developing. It’s all about the journey we take and the enthusiasm about this business and about food. It’s nourishing to the soul and to the heart. I think it’s great to get those accolades and it’s gratifying to know people think that way about us. Not to brag, but we won the Silver Plate Award and also the Cully Hall Of Fame Award for American Food. Of course, the more accolades we get, the better our performance needs to be.

Q – Your philosophy is “Keep It Simple”. Many chefs say the same thing. Is that what the public is telling you?
A – That word there is sort of a nemesis. “Keep It Simple” could be to a lot of people go in and have a grilled hamburger. Keeping it simple in my mind is that you get these great products from the farmers and you try to enhance it enough to bring out the natural characteristics of it. That’s very important to me. It can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. If you use a product in it’s natural state and just work with it and enhance it, I think you’re better off.

Q – What did they teach you at the Culinary Institute that you still use today?
A – Of course we have a good standing relationship working with the CIA (Culinary Institute Of Amercia). As a matter of fact, I had a son go there. I think it gives you great organizational skills. I think it teaches you about discipline. It gives you a high degree of standards and a firm foundation in which to grow upon. It’s a big resource of knowledge and a constant learning center. I work with them quite a bit. I’m good friends with a lot of the professors there. But, it’s like a big support system and it continues to be a big support system and it continues to be a big family.

Q – How do you keep your interest in food at such a high level? Does it ever get boring to you?
A – No. Sure we go through our little phases after you’ve worked your hundredth hour that week. You say, is this really worth it or not? The way I keep my enthusiasm is I continually go to the Farmers Market every Thursday and Friday. That still excites me today as it did when it first opened back in 1983 or even back before then. I still get as excited about this business as I did yesterday.

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