Inside Scoop

Get to Know Haven Executive Chef Matt Brimer

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News broke recently that Haven executive chef Charlie Parker was moving across the Bay to Alfred’s Steakhouse, recently taken over by Parker’s boss,Daniel Patterson.

Replacing Parker at Patterson’s Jack London Square restaurant is Matt Brimer. We got a chance to chat with the new East Bay resident—as he was fighting I-80 traffic on his way down to Jack London from El Cerrito—about his background and his plans at Haven.

What’s your background?

I was at Ame for a few years before this at the St. Regis Hotel, where I was executive sous chef. The chance to work for [Ame co-opporator] Hiro Sone was great, I had the chance to work with more Japanese flavors, which I hadn’t done before and work a lot more with fish. I love working with raw fish—that’s one of my passions.

Before that I was at Maverick for about a year and helped open up Central Kitchen after that. But one of my big experiences was working at Bizou for five years under Loretta Keller and Jen Biesty, who’s now doing Shakewell. Jen was a big influence on me.

So what made you want to take this position?

It’s a great opportunity to get in with a good restaurant group, a growing restuarnat group that’s expanding and opening up more projects—so they must be doing something right. Haven is also a concept that I can really get behind—the family-style tasting menu where some dishes are shared, some are individual, and everything is made in-house. It’s great.

Did you have a chance to work with Charlie?

Yes, there was a nice transition period where I got to hang out with him, which was nice. He shared with me what’s worked for him at Haven and what hasn’t worked. It definitely seems like coming out to the East Bay people want some more bang for their buck, and I think the $49 four-course meal provides that—in a lot of cases, like 60-precent of the time, people don’t even finish all their food. We have the “Breaking Bread” first course format down so that the food comes out in waves in the beginning almost like Korean banchan, where you get hit with all these different snacks that you didn’t even know you ordered. That, plus appetizer, entrée, and dessert: It’s a good amount of food.

Are you changing much on the menu?

The format is remaining the same; we’ll still be switching up the entrees every day on them menu. I’ll probably just tweak things a little bit. I’m switching up the charcuterie board, I’m adding a porchetta di testa from the head of the pig.

But I would actually say our styles are pretty similar, just very seasonal and market driven. I’ve been trying to go to the farmers market three days a week, using a lot of Dirty Girl produce. I’ll probably use a bit more Japanese ingredients, like yuzu kosho and I’m testing out different seaweeds. I’m slowly building things as I get my feet under me.

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