The origin stories for Jewish leaders are no better than Joey Altman’s.
His first job in the kitchen was as a dishwasher at age 13, and by age 16 Altman was working as a line cook at the famed Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake, New York, where Jews summered. in the Catskill Mountains and enjoyed kosher food. . The Concord’s dining room can accommodate 3,000 people.
Now 59 and living in San Francisco, Altman still remembers working at the egg station and freezing when servers barked orders such as “three easier, one with smoked salmon.” ; a smoked salmon, eggs and onions with onions on the side.
After this initiation, some might never go back to a kitchen again. For Altman, the opposite was true.
Altman’s extensive culinary career includes positions at restaurants ranging from Commander’s Palace in New Orleans with Emeril Lagasse to Stars in San Francisco with Jeremiah Tower. He was the first executive chef of Miss Pearl’s Jam House in Oakland and he opened Ti Couz in San Francisco. And he hosted his own award-winning cooking show (Bay Café) and other shows on the Food Network.
But now he wants to be known for latkes (among other things).
Altman is the executive chef at Hazie’s, which opened in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley in August with a menu influenced by a variety of cuisines, including Asian, Mediterranean, Californian and Mexican. But Altman’s celebration of Jewish food is unapologetic — with its own twist. The dinner menu includes mezcal-cured salmon latkes served with salmon roe and dill; more traditionally, on the brunch menu, Altman’s thick and crispy latkes are served with fresh cream and homemade applesauce.
So why latkes? “Because they’re fun to make and pretty, and they taste really good,” Altman said. “I think it’s important for restaurants to have one thing they’re known for, certain dishes that are part of the character of a restaurant,” he added. “It’s usually something people don’t do a lot at home, and while you can find it, it’s rare.”
A pozole with dumplings made from a mixture of masa flour and matzah is on the dinner menu (but beware, there’s pork). The beef brisket sandwich on the lunch menu comes with melted provolone and pepperoncini salsa, and Altman said he hopes to eventually make his own pastrami as well. Coming soon to the brunch menu is one of Altman’s all-time favorite Jewish dishes: matzah brei.
While Altman’s immediate family was non-religious, he grew up with his religious grandparents and great-grandparents nearby.
He recalled how his maternal great-grandmother, Esther, “had a small refrigerator, but somehow brought out an eight-course meal for us without notice” which included chopped liver on matzah. , brisket, pea soup and gefilte fish.
I am not a kosher chef; I am a Jewish person who loves all food and wants everything to be in the same sandbox.
Hazie’s mezcal-smoked salmon and masa-matzah pozole derive from a Jewish-Mexican fusion restaurant concept called El Oy that Altman had planned to open in North Beach in the summer of 2020.
Instead, he used the break Covid gave him to undergo knee replacement surgery and go on a road trip with his daughter.
Regarding this pozole, Altman said he really appreciates a return to his roots by experimenting with Jewish food, though he realizes some might take offense to his combination of pork and matzah in the same dish. dish.
“I wanted to celebrate Jewish cultural and culinary prowess and not be beholden to kosher laws. It’s more about the love of food and flavors,” he said. “I’m not a kosher chef; I am a Jewish person who loves all food and wants everything to be in the same sandbox.
Hazie’s small plate concept spans the globe, encompassing dishes as diverse as kampachi crudo, lamb meatballs with tzatziki and harissa, and grilled broccoli with miso butter and crispy shallots.
When asked to describe the food concept at Hazie’s, Atlman simply replied, “It’s the food I love to eat,” then added, “It’s the food the chefs love to make and the people like to eat. It’s Joey’s food.