Tell us about your time at Sacred Heart and growing up on Haight Street.

I remember one of my favorite classes was mechanical drawing with Mr. Parlante. It always stood out to me as a class that was important. I also remember computers were first being introduced my freshmen year and you were either on board with it or you did not have any interest. I gravitated towards architecture as a student and the understanding of spaces and design. This helped me later down the road when building and designing my own restaurants. One of my jobs is to work with our interior design and architectural teams, and my time at Sacred Heart gave me the foundation for that aspect of my career. I also remember Mr. Hogan who taught science and Mrs. Scudder in the library. Mr. Finley was my French teacher. I became acquainted with French vocabulary around food because of his classes. It was a very mixed atmosphere at Sacred Heart.

During high school I worked at the family business. We were innovators in many ways carrying boutique brands that later would become nationally known products. I remember Strauss milk and Napa vintners coming door-to-door. We became home to many of North California’s treasures in food and drink. We would see the same families buying wine, olive oil, watching the butchers break down meat and filleting of fish. It was a very close knit neighborhood.

The love and appreciation of local products also came from my mother who taught me how to cook. She had a sense of respect for whatever it was that she was doing. My mother was born in San Francisco and my father came from China. Both were Cantonese. My mother would consistently cook five to six days a week and would provide six to seven dishes every night, regardless of working all day long at our store. She cooked Japanese food, meatloaf, Cantonese. It gave me a good understanding of how to work hard.

I pursued architecture after graduating, but ultimately the technology had not caught up yet to how new-age architecture was developing. I believe that there is an invaluable education of learning a trade. In my opinion vocation training should be introduced into more educational systems. It was vital in my upbringing. I am big proponent of Waldorf schools and creatively thinking through a process.

Quick gratification spoke to me in the culinary arts. I could express myself to build and understand the fine detail and see a result in a short amount of time. I eventually attended culinary school, and back then people had to vet you to get in. I became the teacher’s assistant in many ways. It was not my favorite time, but it was a necessary means to my ultimate goal of working in the restaurant industry. During my time at culinary school, I landed a stage at Masa’s, considered one of the most historical culinary diamonds in San Francisco for decades.

How did you begin your career after culinary school?

After culinary school, my first job was the Mandarin hotel in 1988. It was the high-end hotel back then in San Francisco … very high expectations to start my career. I began in the pastry department and we had eight full-time department employees. I was able to get the craft of baking down to a science. I ultimately built relationships at the Mandarin hotel, and so began my relationship with Kirk Webber. He was a young chef who wanted to open his own place. He called me to work for him and thus began Café Kati. Very shortly after that I started my own bakery. By 1994, we expanded the bakery in Cole Valley to include Eos my first restaurant. It took off and in many ways outgrew the bakery and was a pioneer in East-West fusion cooking.

In 2000, I opened Bacar Restaurant & Wine Saloon. It was slated as the last multi-million dollar restaurant. It had a very ambitious wine program. We had 100 wines by the glass and close to 1,200 bottles. No one carries that much inventory today because it costs too much. We sold Bacar and Eos both in 2007, and I took a break for almost a year. I had just been married and I decide to consult. I helped with concept to front-of-the-house operations for local restaurants. In 2008, I started a relationship with E.O. Kitchen & Bar, back then E.O. Trading Co. From 2008–12, I was an educator, manager and helped with product mix. I left them with what is today about 65 to 70 percent of the same menu I started out with.

The bakery that Eos outgrew now operates as the Raison D’etre bakery in South San Francisco. We cover an assortment of baked goods for all of Northern California Pete’s and the grab and go program. We have also expanded to the cheese section of Whole Foods. Our bakery is 22,000 sq. ft. and is doing well. My brother, Richard ’84, runs the bakery side with sales and marketing. I work on research and development. With the bakery, diversifying and labor are the biggest issues in running operations on a day-to-day basis.

Tell us about the Treasury and the background behind the name.

One of my partners owns Range restaurant and Third Rail in the Dogpatch. He showed me the space on Sansome before Blue Bottle moved in next door. I decided that the space has a history that I couldn't pass up on, and we honor that tradition through the menu and decor.

View from the bar at Treasury. View from the bar at Treasury.

The name gives hold to treasury alley—115 Sansome is the first building by the Standard Oil Company. It sports a lot of French architecture and was constructed two years prior to art deco style. We pay reverence to the building and wanted to ensure the decor matches those times. The northeast side of the Treasury is marble with arches and has a view into the foyer.

We have created a market-driven progressive cocktail and food list that really covers the gamut. We have a wide range of options from pigs in a blanket to Tsar Nichoulai cavier. We also have unique items such as a Spanish sherry that is 100 years old. Everything is made in-house including our jams, jellies and syrups. I don’t love mescal, but I do love smoke. I started playing around with pineapple syrups and a Chinese black tea and created a pineapple syrup that has a smoky flavor. Now we have a drink on the menu called smoke and mirrors.

Advice for young alumni looking to work in the restaurant industry?

I always suggest finding a mentor. It would be a shame to leave the industry with all this knowledge and not share it. In a lot of ways I’ve become an educator and mentor to those who are starting their first restaurants and need advice.

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