Gerald Hirigoyen

From the August 2003 issue of San Francisco Magazine:

Sniffing out the hottest chefs in town is easy-you just ask the people who eat out every day for a living. Here, our panel of dining pros reveals who's burning brightest this year. 

Best Chef :

Gerald Hirigoyen doesn't care that his new restaurant, Piperade, is trendy. Actually, he'd prefer it not to be. "I want people to come in who enjoy and know good food. To me, they are the hipsters, you know?" And, as he has learned firsthand, trends have a way of passing.

Back in the nineties, his restaurant Pastis was trendy, But by 2002 the buzz had moved on. And Hirigoyen began to think about making a change. The truth was that his passion was never for the Provencal-style food of Pastis but instead for the earthy, pepper-stuffed cuisine of his French Basque heritage.

Hirigoyen and his wife, Cameron, bought out his partner in Pastis, invested half a million dollars of their own to revamp it, and opened Piperade in the same space last September.
With Piperade, Hirigoyen says, "I wanted to take the Basque thing further. A lot of people have no idea what Basque is." But it takes only one meal of stuffed piquillo peppers, spicy seafood stew, and delicately cooked cod, enjoyed with a bottle of wine from his award-winning list, to understand what this Basque thing is all about.
Not too many restaurateurs these days can boast a successful first year, or even a swinging Saturday night. Hirigoyen could boast all he wanted, if he were the type. But instead the 46-year-old father of three, who arrived with suitcase and surfboard in hand 23 years ago, just smiles. "Some do it sooner, others later. I think it's far sweeter later on. After you've really paid your dues." Mulling over his up-to-16-hour days, six days a week, he says with a wink, "Well, I'm still paying my dues." - Rachel Levin - Piperade, 1015 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 415.391.2555.

2003 Critics' Choice Panel:  The winners of the Critics' Choice Awards were chosen by a panel of a dozen food and wine journalists from around the country:  Caroline Bates (contributing editor, Gourmet), Jerry Di Vecchio (food and wine writer), Meesha Halm (editor, Bay Area Zagat Survey), Leslie Harlib (food writer and restaurant reviewer, Marin IJ), Carolyn Jung (food editor and writer, San Jose Mercury News), Jan Newberry (food and wine editor, San Francisco), Paul Reidinger (senior editor, San Francisco Bay Guardian), Sara Schneider (senior food editor, Sunset), Josh Sens (restaurant critic, San Francisco), Tanya Wenman Steel (New York editor, Bon Appetit), Patricia Unterman (author, San Francisco Food Lovers Guide), Joan Zoloth (restaurant reviewer).