Chef Insider: Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski

Meet the husband-and-wife team behind two San Francisco hot spots


 

When it comes to culinary power couples, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski are definitely among the coolest. They are the chef-owners of two of San Francisco’s most exciting restaurants: State Bird Provisions, which specializes in small plates served up dim-sum style (try the quail), and The Progress, a theatre-turned-eatery that offers a prix fixe, tasting-menu-style dining experience with plenty of quirkiness mixed in. 

With a never-ending list of accolades—including being named best chefs of the Western United States by the James Beard Foundation in 2015—their unabashed creativity and ability to offer two distinct and dynamic culinary experiences has not gone unnoticed.

We sat down with this modest and gracious couple for a peek into their creative and collaborative processes.

Your restaurants are essentially side by side. How do their dining experiences differ?

Brioza: State Bird is an adventure. Food is just coming at you. Off the cart, rolling by, off the menu—it’s a playful place. The Progress is [all about] visual stimulation. There’s a frenetic atmosphere. Seeing new things all the time, whether it’s in the room or on your plate.

Local art plays a major role in both restaurant interiors. Why is that important to you?

Brioza: Both Nicole and I have an art background, a deep love for it and also for collaboration. We work with local potters for our plateware and visual artists like Leah Rosenberg. That collaborative spirit is so stimulating.

As business partners, how do you manage to balance the personal and professional? 

Krasinski: I think the idea of balance is overrated and not achieved by most families, in or out of the restaurant industry. We have the unique opportunity to weave our family life into our work life, and we relish [how] they benefit from each other.

What’s the work dynamic like between the two of you?

Krasinski: Every day is so different. We can go a few days without seeing much of each other. Other days we are collaborating actively on new components for dishes, or sitting in meetings and planning for the future of our businesses.

Do you hope your son, Jasper, will follow in your footsteps?

Krasinski: Not necessarily as a career, but I hope he uses the philosophical building blocks we’re teaching him—buying local, knowing who grows your food, cooking for friends. It’s about enjoying food and always having an interest in it. Seeing the world through a chef’s eyes.

Krasinski’s Favourite Local Spots for Family Dining

For Breakfast: 20th Century Cafe 

“They have amazing bagels and coffee. Everything is beautifully displayed.”

For Lunch: Nopalito 

“It’s open all day, so it’s perfect for a late lunch. The pozole and carnitas [are] the best!”

For Dinner: Del Popolo 

“We snuck in for a 5:30 p.m. Sunday dinner and one quarter of the dining room was under 10 years old. We were in and out [quickly] and everyone was full and happy. It’s not just pizza, but smart and delicious appetizers as well.”

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