Philippe Gardelle – The Chef Artist of Chapeau!
When you enter Chapeau! and look around, you can’t miss Philippe Gardelle, the chef and owner, stopping from table to table greeting customers. That is when he is not in the kitchen. Laughing and cheerful, his love and appreciation pour over all, faithful clients and newbies to his food. It is fun watching his theatrical personality in action in the restaurant that bears his signature and style on Clement Street. Gardelle has made a name for himself on the San Francisco culinary scene over the years, and his success is due to his immense love of the craft and his passion to share it with others. When you see a chef putting so much meticulous effort and poetry into his food – the decoration of the plates, the colors of his dishes – and into the human connection, then you understand why Chapeau’s has been voted Best French Bistro in San Francisco by Zagat for many years in a row.
A self-taught chef and proud of it, he creates all his recipes by using French techniques spiced with his prolific imagination. The results are unique flavors to make you come back for more. And the food is superb and the ambiance of his small Brasserie is perfect to enjoy it. The salmon-roulade à la sauce mayonnaise is not only beautiful to watch but it is to die for when you taste it. If you’ve never tasted sweetbreads, it’s time to expand your palate and try them here, there is no better place to order them. As for the scallop risotto, I don’t know how to describe it. It was so good, the taste so refined, I still remember it! Nuage de noix is Philippe’s favorite dessert. It has been crafted with love mixed with nougatine, pistachios, roasted hazelnuts, Italian meringue, whip cream and soupe à l’orange – a terrific mix to satisfy any sweet tooth. The chocolate soufflé is also a must.
There is another dimension to this creative man, and it is writing. His own recipes are written beautifully like poems. He wished he could have been alive at the time of Baudelaire or Toulouse-Lautrec. Hélas! Every time he has a day off from work, he stays alone in silence with himself and writes stories. He recites his own poetry and talks with enthusiasm about his historical fiction in the making, taking place in the last century. And the story of Chapeau! Well, that is another story involving a play he wrote. He staged it and played a character wearing a hat, something he couldn’t do in real life. And after the play, he wore the hat every day until he opened Chapeau!, with an exclamation point, meaning hats off!
As he was talking to me, he saw clients leaving the restaurant, he excused himself and went to kiss them goodbuy, the French way, kisses on the cheeks. He came back and said: “San Francisco is a series of beautiful movie scenes but Paris is a post card.” And sometimes, as everyone does, he tends to get a little nostalgic, and then he misses some things from his French past:
Le produit laitier, l’arrière pays, Le Pont Neuf, La Fnac, La Seine and l’humour français.
To meet Philippe in person and taste his beautiful culinary creations, rendez-vous at Chapeau! on 126 Clement Street.
Phone: (415) 750-9787