San Francisco’s Sons & Daughters: A Family Affair

When is comes to cooking, many of us try and recreate homey dishes “just like mom used to make.” But for Matt McNamara and Teague Moriarty, who serve up a next generation menu at their San Francisco restaurant Sons & Daughters that mixes classic French technique, molecular gastronomy and a little rebellious reconfiguring of local, seasonal ingredients, Mom’s casserole didn’t make it anywhere near the kitchen.In this case, what mother knew best was design. Debbie McNamara is an interior designer and mom to the 28-year-old wunderkind chef, Matt. So when it came time to turn the former Café Mozart—a chintz, lace and gilded frame–filled French restaurant that opened before both Matt and Teague were even born—into a stylish space appropriate for the team’s forward-thinking food (and fresh-faced staff—the restaurant’s name refers to the 1980s birthdays of everyone on the payroll), Debbie pulled together her paint swatches and got to work on dramatically redesigning the space.

The former Cafe Mozart.

The chefs wanted the food to shine, so the decor itself is stylishly stripped down. Gone are the heavy curtains in the large windows, which now are unadorned to let the bustle of the street become a part of the interior’s charm. The only glitz that made the cut was the set of crystal chandeliers, which now sparkle against a deep purple ceiling—the one thing mother and son couldn’t see eye-to-eye on, until mom pulled rank and said to Matt: “Just trust me on this one.”

The ceiling would have been my favorite detail were it not for the artwork on the walls, and that too comes with a juicy story. From his early days as a culinary school grunt, Matt was enamored with a French cooking tome called “La Conversation” by French chef Marc Meneau and photographer Hans Gissenger. Only 2,00o copies were printed, and the story goes that photographer Gissinger was your standard moody artist and was so displeased with his creation that he gathered up 1,000 of them—all that he could immediately get his hands on—and sliced them in half with a chainsaw. This food legend was proven to be fact when Matt stumbled upon 50 percent of the book in the personal library of an acquaintance. Even in their eerie half-page incarnations, the photographs were so striking that when Matt tracked down the images’ copyright holder, he shelled out for prints of 14 images of their choosing, knowing that whatever showed up would be indisputably beautiful. They are hung throughout the space. 

The black-and-white images range from highly contrasted close-ups of filo dough to bloody sausage stuffing sessions, but it usually takes a second look (or four) to decipher what you are actually seeing. Whatever it is, you can bet it’s not casserole. 

 

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