Discussion of Autumn with central kitchen’s Shannon Waters

Interview by Liz Subauste

Liz Subauste is currently the acting GM of central kitchen. She’s been part of Ne Timeas Restaurant for over 3 years. During her time with NTRG she’s taken various roles in all the different restaurants. She’s currently working on the upcoming flour+water cookbook. She lives in San Francisco with her pig Kona.

This week I sat down with chef de partie, Shannon Waters, after service to talk about autumn, the farmer’s market, her time with Ne Timeas Restaurant Group and staff drinks…

Shannon and the chickens at central kitchen.

Shannon and the chickens at central kitchen.

What’s your Name and title?

My name is Shannon Waters and I’m a chef de partie at central kitchen.

How long have you been working at central kitchen for?

Well, I would have to think about that…I’ve been with NTRG since April of last year, and I think 9 months here, 10 months here.

So, you started at flour+water?

I did.

What made you decide to start working at flour+water?

Well, I staged at central kitchen before it was opened. And, they were fully staffed at the time. I was really intrigued by flour+water’s pasta program and the bread program. The bread program was something I’ve never done before. I’ve never made bread for a whole restaurant.

Oh, I remember the day you staged! You helped us test recipes for the cookbook!

Yes, exactly. I worked with Reyna for a little bit, and I kind of fell in love with the process of making bread and making pasta on a day to day basis, so it was really exciting to be part of that. So, I knew there was a future at central kitchen if I went to flour+water, and I knew that in the meantime I could learn a lot.

You previously lived in other parts of the country, what made you move to San Francisco?

I was drawn to San Francisco because of the produce. The food scene out here is more local and farm-driven. People are more aware of where their food is coming from.

Did you visit San Francisco before you moved here?

When I came to stage, I came with most of my stuff. I pretty much already knew I was going to stay.

Without knowing anything? You just pick up your stuff and went for it?

Yeah, I just basically moved. I went back right back after I got the job at flour+water, brought my stuff and stayed.

Shannon at the market and some treats she brought everyone in the kitchen.

Shannon at the market and some treats she brought everyone in the kitchen.

Now, you’re the farmer’s market buyer for central kitchen. How did you get that job?

Well, my first day at work was meeting Chef Tom and Chef Ryan at the farmer’s market. And, it was a Saturday, and I’ve never missed a day after that. The days the chefs couldn’t go they were like…ah, so since you’re already going, do you think you can go for us? And I was like, absolutely!…And then, it kind of became my thing.

You worked or you helped out at Brooklyn Grange while you were in New York.

I did. I physically worked on the farm and I also wrote recipes for their weekly newspaper.

Chef Thomas, Ryan and Shannon visiting Brooklyn Grange earlier this year.

Chef Thomas, Ryan and Shannon visiting Brooklyn Grange earlier this year.

What’s the difference between the farmer’s market in New York and the farmer’s market here?

They are so different! I feel like in New York there is no way to connect with the farmer. I don’t even know how you would. They speak to 6,000 people in an hour about their produce! And here, you are on a first-name basis with the farmers, I can walk up to a farmer stand and shout out, “hey Booney! Tell me about the fruit. Do you have any damaged fruit that you can sell me? Or, what’s the next best thing that’s coming up?” And it’s a relationship that there’s no way that I could have in New York. They see too many people; instead here, they see the same chefs every week. They know what we’re looking for. They know what we like. It’s a good report.

Marin or Ferry Building?

Why would you do that?! I’m gonna have to go…No! I’m gonna have to go Ferry Building for the people, because all the farmers that I have great relationships with are there and I love seeing them every week, but Marin for the produce.

…and the mango lassis.

And the mango lassis of course .

What are you most excited about this season?

All the things that I’m the most excited about it, we’re already using and we’re already playing around with a lot. My favorite things are root vegetables, same as everyone else in the winter: celery root. We have a really awesome new fish dish right now with the red wine sauce and celery root puree, it is just a great winter dish. We also have an amazing awesome heirloom autumn squash dish. We buy all the squash from Linda at Tenbrick and 2 weeks ago, we bought her entire truckload of squash and filled the restaurant with them. We can’t absorb them all right away, so they’re now part of the restaurant’s decorations.

What’s your favorite season?

Winter because there’s less options and it feels longer, so the lack of variety forces you to be more creative.

You are off on a new adventure soon, what will you miss most about San Francisco?

I think what I’m going to miss the most is the week to week, knowing what’s going to be in season. Actually be able to go to the market and feel that next week fall starts, or be able to feel that tomatoes will be amazing next week…

Where are you going?

First, I’m going home for Thanksgiving to Chicago. My mom still has a house there. I’ll be forced to cook Thanksgiving. And then, back to Colorado for Christmas. Panama for a fishing trip. Then, Thailand. Actually Japan first and then back to San Francisco to do something with Ne Timeas Restaurant Group.

Favorite staff drink?

Everyone knows, I’m hot tea and honey. They all hate me. They know that I’m going to ask for it.

What garnishing green would you be?

I guess I would be agretti because we have an unlimited supply at central kitchen, so I would be able to be on every dish.

Ellie or Kona?

Why would you do that? Obviously Ellie. She’s the cutest little thing. You can’t hug a pig.

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