Far from the revered fine dining palaces of San Francisco, where hype and hyperbole are the most popular items on offer, an ordinary studio in the heart of Oakland plays host to an distinctly different, refreshingly sincere, and entirely immersive eating experience. Don’t call it a secret supper club or a pop-up restaurant, because this twice-monthly meeting of food and music has been making headlines for years, and it’s not about to disappear anytime soon. Born from the recklessly creative mind of chef Philip Gelb, this musician with a passion for cooking set up shop in pursuit of unifying these two pursuits. Each dinner comes not only with a carefully crafted menu of edible delights, but a unique musical performance selected to complement the meal, satiating the voracious audiophile as well. Sound & Savor is an on-going dinner series offering hands-on culinary classes and private catering in addition to these unforgettable evening events.
Some experiences defy words, despite how many things remain to be said. Pop-up restaurants come and go by definition, a fleeting glimpse into a chef’s vision unleashed on the plate, but the memory of Jay Kitchen will stay with me for a very long time. Eight courses, many familiar faces, countless new friends, all packed into one evening. Even if the food had been middling it was a recipe for success, but let me assure you, conversation came to an abrupt halt with each new dish. Eating and savoring, the quiet was periodically interrupted only with utterances of pleasure.
What really gets me is the fact that Jay Astafa, mastermind behind all this, is only 20 years old. 20! Younger than me by four years, and so immensely talented, so accomplished. Now the tables are turned and I understand why so long ago, many writers felt it necessary to preface any article about my first book with a mention of my age.
Though I lingered in the kitchen quite a bit more than was perhaps helpful to the cooks buzzing about, assembling and sending out plates at the speed of lightning, the kindness and warmth I felt throughout the entire night was incredible. Never before have the staff actually raised the lights in the entire dining room so that I could get better photos. Or let me in the shoebox-sized kitchen, in the teeth of the dinner rush, snapping away amid the chaos. Any decent photos I stole should be credited to everyone behind the scenes and the lengths they went through to accommodate me. It was a simply amazing evening.
And that’s not to mention the food itself. I find myself tongue-tied trying to describe what I tasted, so unparalleled in its finesse that comparisons are impossible. Though the temptation to describe each dish in painstaking detail remains strong, I really think that the photos speak for themselves…