Starbelly's Adam Timney: The SFoodie Interview
When Starbelly opened in the Castro last August, it was clear that Adam Timney possessed serious charcuterie chops. Alongside nouveau California comfort classics like grilled sardines, spaghetti, and (of course) thin-crust pizzas, the chef's salami and chicken liver pâté made us sit up and take notice. Stints at Bacar and Boccalone laid the foundation for Timney's salumi skill set. Before that, the Long Beach native (he now lives in Potrero) had clocked in at Eos, was on the opening team for Chez Papa Bistrot, where he says he was forced to learn "the art of successfully working in a small kitchen." All of that gives Timney's experience at the Hilton, where he was on high-volume banquet duty, with reams of prep lists and BEOs (banquet event orders), the flavor of an anomaly. We're just sort of glad he's back in the neighborhood.
Stefano Bini Starbelly executive chef Adam Timney.
SFoodie: Any epiphanies on your way into the kitchen, or in your first years at the stove? Timney: The incredible egg! I learned to scramble eggs when I was 4 and was put on a ration of eggs, because I was so crazy about them (I was rationed to 4 a day). From this passion, I learned to cook eggs in many ways, and am still amazed at the role that they play in the kitchen.
How about your first Bay Area food revelation? My first meal that opened my eyes in San Francisco was eating at [Loretta Keller's] Bizou in 1998. It was a whole new way of putting together great ingredients, and they came through so vividly!
Any flavors, ingredients, or techniques you have an irrational attachment
to? Bacon for sure. And tomatoes, when they're in season, and these ingredients together. I love smoky tomatoes ― Starbelly's pasta [house-cured bacon, jalapeños, and tomato sauce, with fresh spaghetti sourced from Phoenix Pastificio] is a good example. I also love preserving things, trying to capture them in their peak season, and enjoying them later. And the many uses of fermentation.
Where do you go for inspiration for new menu items, specials, etc.? I am very ingredient driven, keeping up on the seasons, knowing what's coming in, new things on the market, being imported from around the globe, and artisanal products being made locally.
Biggest kitchen screw-up? I once bought Bavarian cream instead of heavy cream, and made mashed potatoes with it.
Favorite off-night food and drink spots? For food, Hard Knox Cafe and Just for You in the Dogpatch. Blackbird for drinks. And Connecticut Yankee's for beers. Any little mom 'n' pops? Pinkie's Bakery, Farley's coffee shop, and Aperto Restaurant.