Restaurant News & Reviews

Feast Q&A: Grange chef Oliver Ridgeway off to a hot start in ’15

Oliver Ridgeway shops at a Sacramento farmers market.
Oliver Ridgeway shops at a Sacramento farmers market. Sacramento Bee file

The new year is barely underway and 2015 is already shaping up to be an epic one for Oliver Ridgeway.

The executive chef of Grange was listed twice in the “Saveur 100,” a compendium of movers and shakers in the food world, now on newsstands. Saveur magazine celebrates a gourmet slice of life, and Ridgeway was name-checked in the latest issue for his recipe of braised zabuton with coffee beans, and for his clever usage of the Joyce Chen Saladacco Spiral Slicer.

Saveur’s staff was introduced to Ridgeway in September, when he and Grange bartender Ryan Seng were invited to cook in the magazine’s New York City test kitchen.

And in April, he’ll enjoy a guest chef stint at Pebble Beach Food & Wine. The annual event draws a who’s who of celebrity chefs and culinary leaders, including Daniel Boulud and Masaharu Morimoto, for a series of tastings, seminars and parties. Billy Ngo of Sacramento’s Kru will also be representing our local food scene at the high-profile event.

The Bee recently caught up with Ridgeway to chat about the recent acclaim.

Q: What has the demand at Grange been like for the braised zabuton recently featured in Saveur magazine?

A: It’s selling like hotcakes. Zabuton is a cut of beef that’s also known as chuck tail flap. It’s a nice piece of meat for braising. We make it with shaved chilies and radishes, and pickled onions. It’s pretty tasty stuff. It’s on the menu right now.

Q: You were named in the “Saveur 100” not just once, but twice. They picked you as a proponent of spiral slicers?

A: They asked me if I’d done anything with a spiralizer, and yes, we’d made noodles out of zucchini. It’s this gluten-free, dairy-free entree with basil, olive oil, pesto without the cheese – all this fun stuff. We call them “zoodles,” or zucchini noodles.

Q: In the spring you’ll be off to Pebble Beach Food & Wine. How does one get selected for that? Did you apply?

A: I didn’t apply, but it’s a festival I’ve always admired and wanted to do. One of the organizers was staying (at the Citizen Hotel). She knows Michael Passmore (of Sloughhouse’s Passmore Ranch). He brought her for dinner and I got to cook for her and meet her. She emailed me on Christmas Eve and said, “I don’t know if this is on your Christmas list, but we’d like to invite you to Pebble Beach Food & Wine as a guest chef.”

Q: You’ll be shoulder to shoulder with some of the culinary world’s biggest names. Is that nerve-wracking?

A: It is kind of intimidating (laughs). I just got my agenda and we’ll be doing the grand tasting on Saturday (April 11) and the golf tournament on Friday (April 10). I’ll be rubbing shoulders with the cities’ elite (chefs). All of my sous chefs are saying “Take me! Take me!” But yeah, it’s good, and it’s good for Sacramento, too. It’s good to fly our flag high. We will become a destination beyond Napa and San Francisco. That’s the goal.

Q: How’s the mood in Grange’s kitchen? I’d imagine morale must be pretty high right now with all the accolades.

A: The staff’s been really proud and celebrating among themselves. It’s the busiest I’ve ever seen since being here. I think we’re definitely hitting our stride in meeting the expectations of what people are wanting. I’ve had quite a background in traveling internationally, but I live in Greenhaven now. We’re settled (as a family) and I wanted to find a restaurant that I could really sink my teeth into. A lot of Sacramento chefs are on the same wavelength of wanting to elevate the whole community. It’s great to be part of that.

Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.

OLIVER RIDGEWAY

Executive chef, Grange Restaurant & Bar

The British native who’s become a figurehead of Sacramento’s farm-to-fork movement is on a roll with national acclaim.

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