With his wife, Molly Hawks, Michael Fagnoni owns and operates Hawks restaurant, the Granite Bay eatery many consider the finest in the region.
After eight-plus years of success, Hawks is branching out and heading into highly competitive territory, opening a gastropub called Hawks Provisions and Public House (1525 Alhambra Blvd.). The new place will be smaller and more casual than the upscale flagship, but anticipation is high that Fagnoni and company will bring something exciting to the restaurant scene when it opens by the end of November.
Opening a new restaurant has meant less time in the kitchen for Fagnoni and more hours devoted to crunching numbers, holding meetings and dealing with logistics.
Fagnoni recently took time out of his hectic schedule to talk about the restaurant business, the coming holiday season and his love of onions.
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
A: I don’t know exactly what profession, but it would be something where when you went home, your day was over. We bring so much of the work home with us. It would be nice to just unplug when I got home.
Q: Why are you opening a new restaurant?
A: We were approached by some Sutter doctors about three years ago. We had been in business for about 5 1/2 years at that point. We thought it was a good time to expand and create new opportunities for our staff. All of our managers are going to move up one step.
Q: What is the concept of the new place?
A: It’s going to be a gastropub style. It will be more casual. The food will be more streamlined than at Hawks. But it will still be the best ingredients possible with excellent technique. There will be six beers on tap.
Q: The holiday season is right around the corner. What’s that like at a big restaurant?
A: It’s awesome. Dec. 18 (a Friday) is the day everybody wants this year. We’ve already accepted a booking for the Friday before Christmas for 2016. Someone has bought out the entire restaurant.
Q: How much does that cost?
A: I think it’s $14,000 or $16,000.
Q: Does it seem that a certain percentage of diners are intent on being miserable when they eat out?
A: Yes! We just try to kill them with kindness. We never give up on them. Even those who want to be miserable, we never want them to leave the restaurant mad.
Q: Name one kitchen task you’d rather not do.
A: Grinding the burger meat. We grind it in the walk-in (fridge). It’s 36 degrees and you’re in there for a while.
Q: Give us a pro tip for holiday cooking.
A: Letting the roast rest. It has to rest after taking it out of the fridge to get the chill out of it and rest after you cook it. That’s one thing most people miss out on. A turkey should rest at least 45 minutes before you cut it.
Q: A favorite ingredient?
A: I love onions. It’s not sexy or unique, but I cook with a ton of onions. One of my favorite snacks is aged cheddar with a slice of onion. But it’s probably not for everybody.
Co-owner/chef, Hawks Restaurant
Fagnoni has won raves for his classically prepared dishes with modern twists. Hawks has long been hailed as a contender for the region’s best fine dining restaurant, and the casual Sunday suppers have become an institution. Now, Hawks is primed to open a new gastropub, Hawks Provisions and Public House, on the edge of East Sacramento and midtown.