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Two Fine Dining Chefs Trade Dinner for Latvian-Inspired Brunch

Think beef and sauerkraut pancakes

Rachel Sillcocks (left) and Kristina Compton (right)
Courtesy of Hilda and Jesse

Longtime SF chefs Kristina Compton and Rachel Sillcocks have broken out of the fine dining rut with Hilda and Jesse, a brunch pop-up inspired by the cuisine of Latvia. It’s popping up around town in the kitchens of chef-friends, like Kim Alter’s Nightbird, while the duo works on finding investors, and eventually their own space.

Both partners come from fine dining backgrounds: Compton, at tasting menu-only Avery, Atelier Crenn, Range, and Haven/Plum Bar under Kim Alter, while Sillcocks has spent time in kitchens like Cyrus, Nopa, and Range, the latter of which is where the two met years ago. Sillcocks will serve as director of operations, while Compton will lead the kitchen and menu.

“My family is from Latvia so i wanted to bring some of my heritage to the food,” says Compton. “I don’t think people have seen a lot of Latvian cuisine so it’s fun to play around with that.” That means a lot of smoked fish, pork, and potatoes, “very substantial, hearty food,” with a ton of fermented ingredients like sauerkraut and pickles. That’s the inspiration, though the menu won’t be limited to that genre. There will be some luxury ingredients, of course — after years spent in fine dining kitchens, it’s hard to ditch caviar altogether.

“Working in fine dining, I’ve always felt kind of stunted with what we can do,” says Compton. “With breakfast there’s so much more you can do, and I don’t think a lot of people have tapped into that market and played around with it.”

Courtesy of Hilda and Jesse

Brunch pop-ups often fall into the category of extreme indulgence, and can often serve as the main event for certain groups of diners who consider the meal a sport — think bloody marys with all the garnishes, bottomless mimosas, and piles of pork belly hash. Hilda and Jesse aims to do something a little different.

Dishes like a beef and sauerkraut Latvian pancake with green garlic and nettle sauce is certainly a step outside the realm of eggs benedict dripping with hollandaise. “Conventional breakfast is popular, and I think it’s more of a comfort thing when people go out for breakfast,” says Compton. “The idea is to make it more of an experience, have fun with it but not get stuck in a certain box.”

In the future, Hilda and Jesse will be an all day breakfast concept, with hours potentially ranging from 7 a.m.- 4 p.m. with one menu throughout the day, and the option of a brunch tasting menu. Those daytime hours leave time and space for evening dinners, either other pop-ups or collaborations with friends. It’s a business choice that will generate more income in other ways, says Compton, with opportunities to push events and sell the space when it’s not being used.

Wine will be a part of that brunch experience, too, focusing on sparkling wines that aren’t usually present at brunch. Currently, they’re pouring rosé Champagne, sparkling riesling, and lambrusco, with plans to offer still wines by the glass and bottle in the future.

“We want to have fun and challenge palates,” says Compton. “For me it’s taking that fine dining aspect and applying it to the meal.”

As for a dream location, Compton and Sillcocks are eyeing the Inner Richmond, though that’s all contingent on finding more investors. For now, follow along via Instagram for more pop-up dates. The full next pop-up will take place May 12 at Nightbird in Hayes Valley, offering a three-course meal for $45; tickets available here. For an abbreviated taste of rolled pancakes, head over to Robberbaron (2032 Polk St.) on May 16 at 5:30 p.m.

Nightbird

330 Gough Street, , CA 94102 (415) 829-7565 Visit Website

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