Allyson Harvie, the former teenage golf star who grew up to become a professional chef, has landed one of the most high-profile restaurant jobs in town, stepping into the role of chef de cuisine at The Kitchen, the renowned $175-per-person performance-style restaurant owned and operated by the Selland family.
“It’s absolutely flattering and humbling. It’s one of those opportunities that you don’t want to say no to,” said Harvie, who played golf at Bear River High School in Grass Valley and was named The Bee’s 2002 Sacramento region female high school golfer of the year.
Harvie went on to earn a golf scholarship at Ohio State University, Jack Nicklaus’ alma mater, before attending California Culinary Academy. In the Bay Area, she worked in a series of highly regarded kitchens, including Absinthe, Bar Agricole and Aqua.
When she moved back to the Sacramento area to seek a fresh start, Harvie won accolades as culinary director at Block Butcher Bar and LowBrau. She then started a new venture as executive chef at The Patriot, a proposed restaurant at the Milagro Centre in Carmichael. But when the restaurant experienced numerous construction delays, Harvie decided to leave.
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“For me, after 12 years of cooking at beautiful, amazing restaurants, I’ve finally found my family,” she said of The Kitchen. “I’ve found my place.”
As chef de cuisine, Harvie will oversee day-to-day operations and work with executive chef Kelly McCown on developing a new menu each month.
The Kitchen is unlike any other restaurant in the region. The fixed price menu, including tip, runs $175 a plate, and the experience is a lively, sometimes boisterous interplay between customers and restaurant staff, led by McCown as chef and performer.
Among other things, customers are encouraged to dine at their own pace and ask for seconds or make special requests, even if it’s for lobster or filet mignon. Dinners tend to last three-plus hours and include banter and jokes from the chef.
Harvie, who started a couple of weeks ago, said she’s slowly working her way into the act and will fill in for McCown on his off nights off. Her first dates at the helm, she said, will be Nov. 26 and 27, making her the first woman to take on such a major part of the performance.
Founded 25 years ago by Randall Selland and wife Nancy Zimmer, The Kitchen is considered a premier special-occasion destination.
“Her job is essentially to be Kelly’s partner in crime,” said Josh Nelson, CEO of Selland Family Restaurants, which also owns Ella, OBO and two Selland Market-Cafes, with a third opening on Broadway in early 2017.
Asked why Harvie was picked for the job, Nelson said, “The list is a long one. She’s talented. She’s professional. She’s warm and engaging. She knows how to run a kitchen.”
Nelson added, “There’s the entertainment (part of the job), but really, the message we want is letting people know they can relax and have fun and not necessarily be on their best behavior.”
Harvie’s departure from The Patriot left no hard feelings with co-owner Chris Jarosz, best known as an owner of Broderick Roadhouse.
“The Kitchen is what we consider the apex of what a chef’s career could be in this town. I told Allyson this was something she would be crazy not to take,” said Jarosz. “She would be provided the kind of stability and mentorship there that I could never offer her. Hopefully, I will be able to work with her in the future.”
Jarosz said he has already hired Harvie’s replacement and that the long-delayed Patriot is finally moving forward with construction. He hopes to open by the end of the year, and may open the bar portion of the restaurant sooner.