Two-time James Beard Award winner Traci Des Jardins, the chef behind the 18 year-old French-California restaurant Jardiniere in Hayes Valley, Public House sports pub at AT&T Park and Mijita Cocina Mexicana in the Ferry Building Marketplace, partnered with the Presidio Trust to open the The Commissary in May 2014, transforming a former military mess hall into a stylish, Spanish-influenced sit-down restaurant. Shortly after, she opened Arguello, a Mexican restaurant with a heated patio in the Presidio Officers' Club. Here’s her take on the projects in the Presidio, a former military base turned national park, and the local culinary scene.
What attracted you to this opportunity?
This park is such a gift to the city. It’s spacious, and it doesn’t have that density that the rest of San Francisco is developing. It holds this untapped potential of beauty and access for San Franciscans and visitors from around the world.
How did you develop The Commissary’s menu?
The rich history of the Presidio, in the context of Spanish and Mexican influences and occupation, was an interesting reference point for me. Obviously, I’ve worked with Mexican food and am very comfortable in that whole world. [The Spanish part] makes a lot of sense just given the products that we have in California. It just seemed like a natural.
What local restaurants do you consider classics, and to what do you attribute their long-standing success?