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Chef Ryan Pollnow calls the shots

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Photo: Aubrie Pick

Cooks cook because they love to cook. That’s as it should be, except the life of a chef is hard and most never get rich doing it. But if a chef has his (or her) eye on a smooth ride and a rad place to live, he needs to get a piece of the action.

That’s exactly what Ryan Pollnow has done in San Francisco, where he was recently named a partner in the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group, which operates several terrific restaurants, including Flour + Water, Central Kitchen and Salumeria. Not bad for a guy who thought he’d end up as a California Highway Patrol officer. A kitchen can be a tough place to work, but at least there’s nobody shooting at you.

Now, Pollnow calls the shots as overlord of all the culinary teams at Ne Timeas. That also includes Aatxe, a new restaurant that opened late last year in San Francisco’s historic Swedish American Hall. Aatxe (pronounced aah-CHAY) serves Basque country cuisine. Aatxe is a Basque word that means “young bull.” Pollnow lived for a time in Spain and cooked at Mugaritz, which is on San Pellegrino’s list of the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants.”

“I feel it’s a cuisine that isn’t represented as strongly as many others are in the Bay Area, and with Aatxe, I hope to share the spirit of the Basque country with the city I call home,” he says.

Pollnow will also oversee another new group project, Cafe du Nord, a former speakeasy that has been renovated and converted into a nightclub, restaurant and bar. It’s located in the Swedish American Hall below street level.  

So the young bull who toiled tirelessly at Flour + Water, Central Kitchen and several other San Francisco restaurants is now in the driver’s seat. We can’t wait to see the hot wheels he parks in front of Aatxe.

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