How do you take a popular hotel bar and restaurant and make it exciting to locals and out-of-towners alike? That’s what Executive Chef Thomas Weibull, who previously helmed culinary operations at the Clift Hotel, is setting out to do at Dirty Habit, a cocktail-driven small plates destination in San Francisco’s Hotel Zelos. Here, Chef Weibull sounds off on his first month on the job and the exciting, nonstop nature of hotel life. Read more about Dirty Habit’s new direction in this interview with bar manager Raul Ayala.
Just about a month in… how have things been going at Dirty Habit? Everything’s great – the team is so passionate about what we’re doing here which makes every day inspiring and fun. We’re playing around with the menu and recipe testing. We’ve added some new really delicious items we can’t wait for guests to try… It’s been busy lately but we’re loving the rush.
What are some changes you’ve made? What have you kept the same? We’re currently working to revive the menu with new additions, and freshen up some of the existing favorites like the DH Burger and chicken wings, which are Dirty Habit signatures. It’s very exciting… we’re adding a delicious beef tongue dish that is reminiscent of my childhood growing up in Sweden, but we’ve incorporated Asian flavors like a miso onion puree and trumpet mushrooms. Also a Dungeness crab dumpling with preserved black bean sauce. The new menu overall will have an Asian flair while utilizing as much produce from local purveyors as possible, and always keeping things seasonal. The emphasis remains flavorful, shareable small plates.
You’ve spent ample time working in stand-alone fine dining kitchens and acclaimed hotel restaurants. Do you approach these two settings differently? What do you have to take into consideration as the chef at a hotel versus a restaurant (and vice versa)? Working in hotels is just a big job. You’re in charge of more than one food outlet – for example, at Clift Hotel, I had four, as where at Dirty Habit, a lot of focus is on the restaurant, with a high degree of attention on our dinner activity as well as our private events. A lot of planning goes into everything. When you work at a singular restaurant, the attention is there and only there. With hotels it’s challenging, in a good way, and every single day is different, which is what I love.Dirty Habit sets itself apart as an independent restaurant, which is a huge plus. Not only do get to cook, I also get strategize, plan and organize the entire culinary operations.
What are some similarities and differences between Dirty Habit and the Redwood Room at the Clift? The two are quite different; the Redwood Room has a long-standing reputation in the Bay area, but at Dirty Habit I feel our creativity is at a higher level right now, the food and cocktails are unique, and it has more of a local feel. Our outdoor patio is also a major standout. They’re both great spots, just with different feels depending on what you’re looking for.