Seis Kamimura is the new chef at Postrio, one of San Francisco’s premiere restaurants and a member of the Wolfgang Puck family. For a chef only in his mid-thirties, Mr. Kamimura has had an illustrious career, with highlights including Sous Chef at Spago in Los Angeles, Owner of Les Cadeaux Gourmet in Seattle, and Executive Chef at Bada Lounge and BOKA in Seattle. He was able to take a few minutes to talk to us about his new position.
Brendan McGuigan: First of all, just let me say that it's really a privilege to get to ask you a few questions. I've been a big fan of your food and style for a while now, and am absolutely thrilled that we're lucky enough to have you in the Bay Area.
Seisuke Kamimura: Thank you so much for your kind words.
BM: Could we begin by having you describe a little bit about your philosophy of running a restaurant? What does food represent to you, and what are you trying to leave diners who visit your restaurant with?
SK: First off I make sure what I am doing is consistent with the identity/mission of the restaurant. Once that is established I start forming the framework in which to follow, namely the menu. I want diners to leave with a feeling that they have had a quality experience—from the reservation process to the goodbye.
BM: If I recall, one of your early chef positions was at Spago in Beverly Hills under Wolfgang Puck. What led you to Puck originally, and what inspired you to work with him again?
SK: I was hired as an opening sous chef for Spago in 1997. I worked with former Postrio chef Mitchell Rosenthal in Manhattan. He came back out to SF in 1993 (as a sous chef at the time). He gave me a call and told me what a great food city SF is. Wolf has been a great influence in my career and life. Over the years we’ve stayed in touch and his company is great to work for. There are great resources and he’s always inspiring. I don’t know how he does all the things that he does.
BM: Before this, had you spent much time in San Francisco? What interests you most about being a part of the Bay Area now?
SK: I lived here in the Bay Area from 1993 to 1997. Coming from Manhattan at the time I was blown away by the quality of the produce. Being back in the Bay Area has been great. I love that it is a relatively small food community in such a cosmopolitan city.
BM: One of your restaurants in Seattle, BOKA, really took the concept of the amusé to a pretty amazing level. Can we expect to see a greater focus on the amusé at Postrio now that you're there, or do you have any other innovations in store for us?
SK: I am trying to reformulate the menu at Postrio. At this point I am not sure if the amusé concept will be available. I have used some of my past signatures like the Dungeness crab cupcake with saffron frosting at fundraisers. For now I am using some contemporary techniques such as spherification on one of the dishes.
BM: Aside from Postrio, what are your favorite restaurants in the Bay Area? What do you look for personally when dining out?
SK: I had a great meal at Cyrus not too long ago. I also like Ubuntu. I think they are doing some great dishes with vegetables. I am looking for a restaurant that shows its true identity. When you walk in to a restaurant that has that certain “it” factor, you can feel it. I love it when you can actually see and taste a chef’s spirit in their dishes.
BM: What size kitchen are you working with at Postrio? Are you sticking primarily with the staff that was there when you arrived, or are you bringing in new blood?
SK: In the kitchen alone there are about 35–40 people. This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner & dishwashing teams. Some of the staff have remained but there have been definite changes that have been made.
BM: The interaction between an executive chef overseeing a host of restaurants and an incredibly accomplished chef de cuisine is a fascinating one. Can you give us a bit of insight into what the process is between you and Puck, in terms of overarching vision, menu planning and preparation, recipes, etc.?
SK: The process takes time and trust. I have built a relationship with Wolf for about 10 years. When I opened Spago Beverly Hills he was able to see on a day-to-day basis what I was capable of. During this process I learned what Wolfgang’s likes and dislikes were. I was also able to execute the overall vision at his flagship restaurant.
BM: Finally, for people making their way to Postrio for a single outing, what one dish would you absolutely recommend?
SK: I have a few that I am fond of at the moment: the cauliflower soup with Indian spices & pressed caviar as well as the spicy tuna “roll” with nori & wasabi oil.