Chef Gayle Pirie

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | May 23rd, 2012 | Chef Interviews

If you are headed to San Francisco and are looking for more than just a meal on the town, Foreign Cinema should be on your short list.  In addition to serving dinner nightly and brunch on the weekend, you have the opportunity to watch both foreign and independent films.  A thirteen year old restaurant, Chef Gayle knows how to create the perfect menu, which will please diners as they enjoy the ambience.  I was able to speak with Chef Gayle to learn more about Foreign Cinema.

TT:  Reading your website, I noticed that you have a daily changing menu.  Do you change the specials or the entire menu daily?
CG:  The “daily document” as we call it is written daily to reflect the breadth of micro decisions that must be made regarding the menu. It must be written daily, the entirety is the “special”.

TT:  Can you share some highlights from today’s menu?
CG:  Today we are featuring a salad comprised of our Salinas grown organic arugula blended with rose petals from my garden for a taste harmony of “peppery-cinnamon-green” with fromage blanc, and toasted pistachios, like the Romans ate in the fields 400 years ago.

TT:  You show movies at dusk at your restaurant.  Is this a daily occurrence?
CG:  Of course, 7 days a week. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday you see 35 mm celluloid  film projected against the wall with a professional  film projectionist; the other evenings the same film is projected with modern technology of a DVD.

TT:  Do you do any movie-themed food or beverage pairings?
CG:  The food and film concept is an intricate weave of rich ambiance. We prefer to write menus completely independent of anything but great ingredients. The food program will always drive the restaurant. Inspiration for our cocktail list will include movie themes, such as the refreshing Barberella, or quixotic The Song Remains the Same or thirst quenching, Steel Magnolias: artisanal, seasonal libations that tickle our imagination and love of cinema is how we roll.

TT:  Are you able to source any of your ingredients locally?
CG:  Are you kidding? As natives, the only way to conceive of menus and recipes is to ask: what is nature providing me with today? We have a network of local growers who supply us with the best the area has to offer.

TT:  With two chefs at the helm, do you plan the menu together, take turns, have one plan, etc.?
CG:  Our teamship evolves each year. In the beginning, the menu was an intuitive inclusion of both of our personalities. As our family has grown to two children, the natural state of culinary direction is a tag team effect, as the other one nurtures the children at home, the other parent is driving the workings of ”all things” at Foreign Cinema.

TT:  What makes Foreign Cinema unique?
CG:  The most important statement we can make on our uniqueness is the geography the restaurant  inhabits. I do not know of any other restaurant that offers so much “environmentally”, such as the Modernism West gallery, the film projected on the wall for environmental richness and ambiance, the roaring fireplace for cozier nights, the open kitchen, the outdoor covered, heated dining room, Laszlo our adjacent music and video bar, the Director’s Table (a private dining space), and so forth. The bones of the restaurant are sound with a deep commitment to fine dining—that is receiving the finest ingredients, restorative, delicious, and sensual in offerings, a skillful caring staff, a beautiful wine and bar program, and two dedicated owners. The rest is “butter”.

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