Daniel Patterson has run Coi solo for three years, but as he expands his burgeoning empire, the two-Michelin-star chef is collaborating more on a number of things, including—to a degree—the cooking itself. What business partner Lauren Kiino does at the simpler, more rustic Il Cane Rosso (and what she plans to do at Bracina, opening in December) has informed Patterson’s work at Coi, even though the two stay out of each other’s kitchens.
“I’m only going to be the chef of one place, ever. I have no desire to personally make sandwiches or cook brunch, or any of the other things that will happen with these other restaurants,” Patterson told us. But while the division is clear between his and Kiino’s kitchens, they do share suppliers and trade ideas, which leads to some cross-pollination. For example, Kiino did a salad of cucumber, compressed watermelon, and feta at Il Cane Rosso that Patterson then riffed on at Coi, serving a cucumber salad with borage flower and leaf, next to ha’ogen melon-cucumber consumme on the same plate. He sprayed mint on the plate but didn’t include it in the dish—a sort of curveball for the senses. “I think there’s a lineage there, a back and forth, but by the time [a dish] ends up on the menu at Coi, it’s quite a bit different. It’s more refined, and about ten times more labor-intensive,” he said.
While the common perception on this end of the economic slump is that fine dining is on the way out, Patterson is having none of it. “I do understand that there are general trends, but I also think that people still want extraordinary experiences. They don’t want them every night but they want them from time to time… It’s nice to have a range of experiences within a dining community, and I think I’ll have a pretty good range just within my own little sphere of influence,” he said. Bracina, set for Oakland’s Jack London Square, aims to be a modest neighborhood eatery and bar, an 80-seat restaurant Patterson says he hopes patrons will frequent multiple times a week. Il Cane Rosso, which opened in July, sells sandwiches and rotisserie to commuters and shoppers at San Francisco’s Ferry Building, using only pastured meat. Kiino and Patterson intend to collaborate on their supply chain—utilizing their greater buying power to get access to more specialized ingredients such as whole animals that they can divide between the restaurants.
Patterson and Kiino met when she staged at Coi in 2008 after leaving Delfina. “She worked for several months and I was impressed by what a good cook she is. Not just that but a great manager,” he said. He had been eyeing the space in Oakland, in which he took an interest because his wife works downtown. “This opportunity came up, and I asked if she would be interested in doing something together. So from the very beginning, I was clear on what the relationship would be: I would get the space, oversee the design and construction and handle the business, but it would be her restaurant.”
Coi, Bracina, and Il Cane Rosso were all designed by Scott Kester and they’ll use similar ingredients, but Patterson insists he will stick to fine dining at Coi, which has had one of its best years yet. The key to a successful restaurant is consistency, Patterson says: “You do one thing, you be very clearly about who you are, and you don’t change your concept.” One way around that mantra is to open a new restaurant. Or two.
What else can we expect in the restaurant world this season? Plan your meals with our Fall Preview.