Interview: chefs Lori Baker + Jeff Banker (Baker & Banker)

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Chefs San Francisco

Photo courtesy of Baker & Banker


What do you look for when you’re hiring somebody to work in the kitchen?

Banker: Passion. People that are passionate and want to be around food, and love food, and care what they’re doing and have attention to detail.

So are there certain tests you assign to gauge that?

Banker: With chefs or sous chefs, I’ll have them cook. Line cooks, I don’t have a pre-set. I try to hire people that are referred from other people, so I know they’re going to be good. A lot of it’s just from the interview, how they talk, and if they have the desire to grow, or passion about what they do, that’s usually when I’ll offer them a job. Or they’ll come in do a stage.

Who else do you look to in the San Francisco restaurant community for inspiration, guidance or advice?

Banker: I talk to Lawrence [Jossel] at Nopa once in awhile. As far as food inspiration, I like to go to State Bird.

Baker: We just had a great meal at Manresa that was pretty inspirational, I think for both of us.

Banker: Yeah, definitely Manresa was up there.

What stood out about that experience?

Banker: It was flawless, from service. Since I’ve owned a restaurant, too, besides what happens in the back, I’ve become more aware of service issues and what it takes to provide great service. It’s perfectly executed there. It was flawless.

Has it become harder or easier to enjoy eating at other restaurants since you got your own restaurant?

Baker: That’s a good question.

Banker: When it’s on, it’s really amazing. When it’s off, that makes it harder. I’ve gotten a tolerance to be able to try and enjoy myself.

Is there anything you don’t enjoy eating?

Banker: I like everything.

Baker: I have a list of things I don’t eat. When I met Jeff, I was a strict vegetarian. I ate nothing, pretty much. I’ve come a long way. I eat a lot of stuff now. I’m not huge into raw fish or oysters, or offal, so there are a lot of things I won’t try, but I’ll try more and more all the time.


Baker: I was, until I met him.

What steps are you taking to achieve balance in your life?

Baker: Now we have two kids, so that makes it harder.

Banker: For one thing, we just hired a chef. I was running the business and running the kitchen at the same time, and that was a lot. So the last few months, I’ve taken a bit of a step back. I hired someone to help with the food, and Lori hasn’t been working as much. I’ve taken more of the administrative role.

How would you say the restaurant’s progressed since you first opened?

Banker: I just think we’ve worked out a lot of the kinks, a lot of issues with the restaurant. I know we’ve definitely gotten systems down to become more organized. It’s still a work in progress, but definitely, coming into it, we didn’t know a lot, and have learned a lot since doing this. A lot.

What do you like to cook when you’re at home?

Baker: Very simple. I don’t cook anything right now, with the baby, but the other night, Jeff made turkey burgers, broccoli and sweet potatoes. It’s just simple, but everything he makes just tastes really good.

What would you like people to think of when they hear your names?

Baker: I’d just like them to think of a husband and wife who have a true passion for doing this. We do the best we can, every day, to make this the best experience possible for everyone who comes in here.

Sound about right?

Banker: Yeah. I just want people to respect what we do, and consider us a great restaurant to go to. Our names are associated with quality.

Address: 1701 Octavia Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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