Michael Ransom took over the kitchen at B&O American Brasserie at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in July and has been quietly shifting the menu to more casual fare with an emphasis on small plates. A Michigan native, Ransom trained at the Kendall Culinary Academy in Chicago and later moved to San Francisco where he became executive chef at Bar Adagio, followed by a stint at Henry’s in Berkeley. In 2013, he was named executive chef of Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen, at the Kimpton Group’s Serrano Hotel.
What is your voice as a chef?
I love coastal cuisine, that’s what brought me to San Francisco. I love regional cuisine, not just based on ingredients, but on the unique culture. For example, in Baltimore you’ve got the crab cake, which will have mayo or some aioli based binder, where in San Francisco, the classic Dungeness crab is straightforward, steamed or boiled.
How did you get into cooking?
My parents were hippies. I grew up around a self-sustaining culture. That’s probably what got me into cooking at a young age. My dad worked in apple and cherry orchards. He was a pruner and did harvesting. My parents had a small maple syrup business. They’d cook maple syrup. They gardened for most of our food. My mom picked wild leeks, we did a lot of morel hunting and we foraged for berries. My parents wouldn’t buy prepared foods. If we were hungry, we had to make something. I ended up cooking for my brother and sister when we were younger.
Did you ever feel deprived?
We were probably below the mean income, but because my parents were resourceful, we never felt like we didn’t have what we needed. My dad did everything himself. He built most of our house and would rebuild our cars. He was very self-sufficient.
Are your parents proud of you?
My mom says she’s glad she cooked with me at an early age. She had a big influence on my cooking. That was how we bonded. She was a midwife while we were growing up and went back to medical school in her 40s. Now she’s an ob-gyn.
Wow, what a role model.
Yes, she is an amazing role model.
What will be the most significant changes on the B&O menu?
I’m putting more emphasis on finger food. We’re dubbed an American brasserie, and I’m bringing in more pub fare to complement our bar program. We’ll do a lot of bites and snacks, including our own jerkies, rockfish pate, liver mousse. We want to add energy to the dining experience, to allow guests to sample and taste. The gastro pub term is a little bit played out. We’re staying true to the brasserie approach, while remaining seasonally focused.