Interview: Matt Brimer, Haven

Posted in Interviews on December 10, 2015

Chef Matt Brimer is well-versed in San Francisco’s restaurant scene, having spent the past decade in some of the city’s most iconic kitchens. But his growing family, and the opportunity to join the Daniel Patterson Group, spurred a move to Oakland, where he’s now heading up the kitchen at Haven, DPG’s Jack London Square restaurant. Here, he speaks on the Bay Area’s changing restaurant scene, his reasons for heading to the East Bay, and his plans for Haven in 2016.

Having spent years in a range of acclaimed San Francisco kitchens, how do you think the city’s restaurant scene has evolved in the past decade? The first thing that comes to mind is social media. It’s a blessing and a curse in a lot of ways, but things like Instagram have allowed chefs to share what they are doing and what inspires them, which is great. It’s also allowed for more talented people to access funding quickly, through things like Kickstarter, which would’ve taken years to find 10 years ago.
Do you think that Oakland is moving in a similar direction? It’s been sad to see lots of great cooks have to leave the City because of the cost of living. That’s definitely had an impact. I moved my growing family to the East Bay this past summer for more room because there simply wasn’t anything in San Francisco that would work for us. Though the East Bay is quickly catching up in high rent prices, I’m hopeful it doesn’t have as drastic an impact as it has in the City.As far as the actual types of restaurants that are opening and styles happening in each city, I think they’re really comparable. I don’t really see it as East Bay vs. San Francisco — there are so many talented chefs in Oakland performing at the same level as some of the best restaurants in San Francisco, or anywhere for that matter. I see it as a Bay Area scene.
What excited you about joining Haven’s team? What kind of changes are you planning for the menu? I’ve always had a lot of respect for Daniel Patterson and his group and Haven is not only a beautiful space, but a great concept. I don’t plan to change the format – I really like the family-style prix fixe, but I will be focusing on expanding the larder program, like fermentation projects, pickles, cheeses, house-made pastas, etc.
What’s keeping you busy right now? I’m looking forward to a busy holiday season, working out the New Year’s Eve menu now.  I always enjoy working with winter produce, and I’m excited for citrus season in particular.
What are your plans for Haven in 2016? As for 2016, I would love to bring the chefs counter back.  There used to be one, and we are getting quite a few inquiries for that. I’d like to offer an elevated experience for the guests – extra courses, special wine pairings, while interacting with the kitchen. Being able to experiment and have fun, offering high quality and creative flavors…that’s my vision for what’s ahead for Haven.

[Photo Credit: Steven Krause]