5478 College Ave., Oakland
510.655.6469; www.acoterestaurant.com


Executive Chef Matt Colgan

Age: 35

Hometown: Alameda

Experience: Has worked as a chef for 20 years (has worked in restaurants since he was 15).

Most memorable experience: "For a particular winemaker dinner hosted at À Côté, our team went to the vineyard's farm before sunrise, picked apples and slaughtered meats. We brought it all back to the restaurant for preparation, and the winemaker paired each dish with his wines. It was over-the-top, and guests were begging for mercy at the end, what with all of the roasted lamb, rabbit and pig."

Mentors: "I've always sought out the advice of other people's grandmothers or anyone who has cooked for a long time. That's how you find the best secrets and stories."

Most proud of: Sitting down to eat dinner with the family on a regular basis, despite his busy schedule. "We usually get the barbecue going on Sundays."

Most influential gig: "I did a stint as a chef at a small restaurant in Tuscany. All ingredients were sourced from within 15 miles. Farmfresh herbs and baskets full of eggs used to be delivered through our back door."

Favorite food: "I don't really have a favorite food. I appreciate anything that's well-executed."


Alternate career path: "When I was younger I wanted to be a firefighter. I suppose I should have some of those skills [in the kitchen]. I'd love to be Anthony Bourdain traveling all over to eat and host a Travel Channel show."

Early inspiration: "My grandmother. When I was young and she was visiting, my sisters and I would wake up to oatmeal bubbling on the stove, made-from-scratch muffins in the oven and pancakes on our plates. She spoiled us with a lot of Southern food as well."

Mussels with Pernod

Serves 4

1 pound mussels (well-scrubbed and de-bearded)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon shallots, finely minced
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 ounce Pernod
3 ounces white wine
2 ounces heavy cream
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté briefly. Add mussels, followed by Pernod and white wine, allowing the alcohol to burn off and the mussels to open. Add cream and bring to a simmer. Season with salt, if necessary (the brininess of mussels often provides all the necessary salt). Serve with warm crusty bread for dipping. Garnish with chopped herbs fines (parsley, chervil, chives and tarragon, or any combination thereof) as you wish.