Sunday, June 06, 2010

Hail to the Chef: Molly Hawks, Hawks Restaurant & Bar, Granite Bay

In this edition of "Hail to the Chef" we profile Molly Hawks of Hawks Restaurant in Granite Bay. I had the privilege of visiting Hawks about a month ago and still have very fond memories of my meal!!

1. What made you want to become a chef?
Growing up as one of seven children, there always seemed to be something to celebrate in our house. With such a large family, we all had to pitch in and help…and it seemed I was always helping my mom in the kitchen. As I grew older, I think I became enamored with the grace and ease with which my mom seemed to put on such an elegant table. I believe this background really paved the way for me.

2. Where did you receive your training?
I attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Prior to attending culinary school, I gained some Front of the House experience working in several restaurants in the San Francisco area.

3. Who have you worked with that you have really admired?
Before opening Hawks, my husband and I worked together at a restaurant in Woodside CA, The Village Pub. Our Executive Chef, Mark Sullivan, had a profound influence on my cooking style. His style of Farm to Table cookery earned him a spot as one of Food & Wine’s Best new chefs (hopefully we will be too…some day).

Today, it’s safe to say Michael is my greatest inspiration. He has an innate ability to master anything food and beverage related. Not only is he an amazing chef, but he’s brews an amazing beer and a mean espresso.

5. What are/who are your primary cooking influences?
I would have to say that the seasons really dictate the products we use.
This way there are always new products cycling in which, in turn, dictate menu changes.
As far as chef’s we follow and look up to, we look to hard core chefs like Marco Pierre White and Joel Robuchon when we need to be reminded of the dedication it takes to get to the top. One would have to be extremely thick skinned to survive in their kitchens. When it comes to food style, we like to follow Eric Ripert, Tom Collichio, and of course, Thomas Keller.

6. What are your favorite and least favorite foods to prepare?
I like the finesse required of the sauté station, where we typically cook the majority of the seafood. My least favorite station would be the grill station, where we cook the steaks and burgers – not to say that the grill doesn’t take finesse and skill, it’s just more masculine in nature!

Please tell me about your most overwhelming moment in the

Easy! When I was working at the Village Pub, I remember coming into work one very hot summer day to set up my Garde Manger station, where I would prepare all cold dishes served in the restaurant. Just a few hours before service, my chef informed me that I would be working the wood fired grill that evening, as our grill cook had not shown up for work. At the time we served a bone-in ribeye for two and I just couldn’t believe that they would trust me with such an expensive cut of meat. I was totally freaked out, but I knew I had to do it! Finally, my chef told me to just think as if I was barbequing in the back yard. For some reason that changed my perspective and I was able to make it through the night!

8. Who are your favorite chefs or famous chefs?
See answer to question #5

9. White wine or red wine? Do you have a favorite wine varietal/label?
I love both red and white wines. I adore vintage champagne and earthy pinots. I’m hoping to add a bottle or two of Richebourg to our little wine collection!

10. What is your "can't live without" kitchen tool and why?
Probably the chinois – whether we’re making soups or sauces, we like to provide a luxurious mouth feel by passing liquids through this fine sieve. Inevitably this practice costs us dollars, as we decrease our yield, but the end result is worth it!

11. Please tell me how you go about planning your menus.
Michael and I sit down with a list of ingredients coming into season and talk back and forth until we reach a dish we both agree on. The majority of our current staff have been with us since we opened the restaurant and we like to take their suggestions and get them involved in the process. Giving them ownership allows them to take great pride in the product.

If you had a different career choice, what would it be?
Before enrolling in culinary school, I graduated from UCLA with a BS in Biology, with intentions of enrolling in medical school. If I were to make a radical career change, I would still love to attend medical school. I secretly day dream about attending business school as well!

13. What are the most important things to remember (can be relative to anything) while working as a chef?
Restaurants operate on such slim margins, most chef’s in fine dining restaurants do not make large salaries. chef’s need to constantly remind themselves of the rewards that do exist…the beautiful products we get to work with, the immediate gratitude of a happy guest.

14. What is the most important thing you have learned in your culinary career?
Don’t let sites like yelp overtake your life! Whether good or bad, we do read our reviews, but we try not to get too caught up with them. Otherwise we would be changing our concept constantly to meet each guests specific demands!!

(editor's note: I find some people on Yelp to be haters. Not all, but some. Good for you for not taking the whole thing TOO seriously.)

15. How did you come to open Hawks? Please tell me about the restaurant concept and the food served there.
After working together for several years at The Village Pub in Woodside, CA, Michael and I decided we were ready to open our own business. We love the Farm to Feast concept and knew this was the direction we would follow with our own restaurant. We had come to know the GB/Roseville area as my family moved to Granite Bay in 2002. While visiting family, we would research the local restaurant scene and in doing so, we came to realize there was a lack of independently owned, upscale restaurants in the area. These findings helped to shape our restaurant today.

How did you find the location? I have heard people ask about the
paint colors. Please tell me about the interior design.

While Michael and I were casually searching out possible restaurant sites in the Roseville and Granite Bay area, we were introduced to the developer of Quarry Ponds. We cooked for her several times while at the Village Pub and gradually formed a relationship. When we saw the setting at QP, on the water, we knew we had found the right site for our restaurant. We worked with a restaurant designer out of San Francisco to lay out the space and worked with a local interior designer, Danielle Petkus for the overall feel. I knew I wanted to incorporate a mix of contemporary lines with rustic farmhouse elements. Overall, we wanted the restaurant design to remain simple and clean, as the true star is the food !

17. What are some upcoming events at the restaurant that you might like people to know about?
We have a wine maker’s dinner scheduled with Peay Vineyards on May 20 and we’re gearing up for a big Father’s Day Brunch and Dinner on June 20. In addition, we will begin a summer barbeque menu which will be offered on our patio and in our lounge beginning May 21. Beginning July 11, we will start offering a prix fixe Sunday Brunch the Second Sunday of each month. All that, and we continue to offer cooking classes in our kitchen here at Hawks on a regular basis.

Best meal ever?
One of the most memorable meals my husband and I shared was at Bluehill in NYC. Chef Dan Barber has really helped to pioneer the farm to table concept on the East Coast and their beautiful vegetables are pulled from their own farm on a daily basis. We continue to visit Bluehill or Bluehill at Stone Barns whenever we visit Michael’s family.

Hawks is located at the Quarry Ponds Town Center, 5530 Douglas Blvd., Suite 110, Granite Bay. To make reservations call (916) 791-6200 or go to their page on Open Table.

You can "like" them on Facebook here. Follow them on twitter here.

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