UNEXPECTED FOOD FINDS
Perhaps subliminally, says Keller, seafood
entrées are favorites at the California
Academy of Sciences, where the aquarium is
a huge draw for visitors and a fish tank with
Asian river fish is part of the décor at the Moss
Room. The menu includes dishes that range
from batter-fried brandade fritters to sea
cloud—Japanese custard with Manila clams,
shimeji mushrooms and white soy. But house-cured Llano Seco lardo and Moroccan spiced
lamb shoulder are also menued. Phan serves
a larger volume at the Academy Café, with
stations for his signature steamed buns, wok
items and “Mr. Taco” build-your-own tacos.
Ownership of museums’ foodservice brings unexpected benefits. Just ask Jesse Cool of Cool Café at the Cantor Art Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Cool discovered that he cooking space at the cafe was tiny for the volume of guests. “By necessity, we simplified our food production,” she says. “The menu runs from chicken curry salad to daily soups. When you have lots of space and storage room, you get expansive in your ways. We became very efficient, very fast—and we brought those efficiencies to my other estaurants, including Flea St. Café.” Last year was a blur, recalls Loretta Keller of San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences’ Moss Room and Academy Café. She visited her thriving restaurant, Coco500 in San Francisco, perhaps a dozen times. “We got so busy, so fast at the Moss Room and Academy Café—serving 1,600 guests each of the first three days—and the crowds never stopped. I realized the team-building in place at Coco500 was a godsend. The staff did a great job in my absence. Now I’m back in balance, with half time at each locale.” chef/owner of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), New York, runs foodservice at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in the city. Meyer and his taff developed diverse dining options at the museum. The Modern, a high- end restaurant with exceptional wines, is headed by executive chef Gabriel Kreuther, who received the 2009 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: New York City. Paul Bolles-Beaven, USHG senior managing partner, operations, describes Cafe 2 as a modern cafeteria with market-driven Italian fare. The Terrace 5 cafe overlooks the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. With the success of the MoMA culinary trio, the group recently opened Sandwiched at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Until a permanent cafe opens, this pop-up version features creative sandwich creations from USHG chefs. Floyd Cardoz of Tabla crafted the Bombay Pita Panino, and Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm, who received the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: New York City, designed the Chicken Schnitzel sandwich. WHAT CHEFS LEARN AT THE MUSEUM
The Restaurant is known for crab cakes,
braised short ribs, handmade pasta with bay
scallops and crispy pancetta, and fresh fish.
At the de Young Museum, Holton’s daily
fresh soups may include roasted fennel,
Pernod and vegetable stock “buzzed up”
with brie. He also serves an open-faced
grass-fed strip loin salad with Zinfandel-braised onions and Roquefort aïoli.
The ever-changing dinner menu at the
Nasher Museum Café may include grouper
with lardons, root mash, Brussels sprouts
and green-garlic purée. The Café draws
crowds for its brunch Benedicts, such
as roasted pork loin with asparagus and
Other celebrity chefs are ramping up
their museum culinary presence and
improvising ways to bring creative
concepts to their diners. Danny Meyer,
No matter the food, says Bolles-Beaven,
“Our goal is to enhance the museum
visitor experience by offering excellent
cuisine and unparalleled hospitality.”
For the chef, beyond preparing interesting
food, coming to work every day in
architecturally distinct buildings and artful
settings can be an extra perk.
“If you have a bad day, once you get to work,
it’s beautiful up here. You can appreciate the
beauty, and put your troubles away.”
Visitors to the gourmet Café on One at the
AMNH can order roasted local beet salad
with Coach Farm goat cheese and hazelnuts.
But manager O’Brien’s personal favorite is
the thick-crust pizza. At the Museum Food
Court, “dino” nuggets (think chicken) rule, but
there’s also whole-wheat mac ‘n’ cheese.
“You look at art from around the world,
and treasure the culture and history and
creativity,” says Cristobal at the Getty.
“People come from around the world to see
our art—and people also come for the food.
We are very proud of this accomplishment.
Deborah Grossman is a San Francisco Bay
Area journalist who writes about people,
places and products that impact the food-and-wine world.