The list of chefs returning to cook at Coi next week for the restaurant’s 12th anniversary reads like a rolodex of the industry’s most successful: Evan and Sarah Rich (Rich Table, RT Rotisserie), James Syhabout (Commis, Hawker Fare), Brett Cooper (Aster), Gavin Schmidt (The Morris), and others have gone on to helm their own celebrated restaurants in the Bay Area, with more, like Evelyn Wu (of Toronto’s Boralia), and Carlos Salgado (of Taco María, LA Times’ best new restaurant of 2018), achieving the same farther afield.
Their pursuits as Coi alumni have the restaurant’s owner and longtime chef Daniel Patterson glowing like a proud grandfather, “feeling sentimental and grateful,” and understandably so: The dinners — 12 courses, with 10 chefs per night on May 21 and May 22nd — underscore the success of Coi not just as a restaurant, but as an alma mater.
For Katy Millard, a Coi alum who opened her popular Portland neighborhood restaurant Coquine in 2015, that means the dinners will be “like a ten year high school reunion — only less awkward.” Working closely together in a small kitchen, “you spend 60 hours a week with these people: They’re your family.”
Patterson intends the dinners as “an acknowledgement of the community we’ve created around the restaurant.” Coi’s 10th anniversary “came and went, because I was busy,” he says. “This year, I’m like shit, we gotta do something.”
Two years later, the influence of Coi alumni has only grown, and Patterson is in a better position from which to reflect. In 2016, he was indeed busy, handing over the executive chef reigns of the restaurant for the first time to someone else: Matthew Kirkley, who earned Coi’s third Michelin star before departing for the prestigious Bocuse d’Or culinary competition — another prodigal child of Coi returning for the dinners next week. Coi’s current chef, Erik Anderson, took over in November, and he’ll also prepare dishes for the dinners.
“Since stepping down at Coi and the day to day, [Daniel’s] really been able to expand his ability to create more opportunities for more people,” says Brett Cooper, chef/partner at Aster. Cooper is in part referencing Patterson’s embrace of his role as restaurateur, giving over not just Coi, but his other restaurants like Alta and Haven to new chefs like Nigel Jones and Reem Assil.
But Cooper has also been part of that process, with Patterson his business partner in Aster. They’re still “really close,” Cooper says, but “but it’s definitely been a while since we’ve been in the kitchen together.” And it’s not just Patterson, but “to get to cook in the kitchen with some of the other amazing chefs that were there [at Coi] — with Katy, and Carlos, and Gavin — I’m really excited to reunite.”
That feeling is mutual for chefs like Millard: “[Coi] gave a lot of my kinda class year, those cooks, a lot of confidence in ourselves: The knowledge that we were part of something really great [and] that maybe that meant we could be great, too.”
“Whatever happened [at Coi] was much more than I ever anticipated, or could have done myself,” Patterson says, and in keeping with that thought (and his current mode), he’ll mostly shun the spotlight, at least as chef: He’s encouraged the cooks to prepare dishes indicative of their own restaurants, rather than playing the Coi hits, and for his part, is just serving his puffed brown rice crackers with sprouts and avocado, a course of California sturgeon caviar egg yolk, and one course of asparagus.
Tickets to Coi’s 12th anniversary dinners are available on Tock for $495 per person, with $100 each given to non-profit organization The Cooking Project.