Chef Aaron London unplugs his much-loved, veggie-focused restaurant At AL in order to focus more on his young family, although the restaurant is always full every evening. The last night of service will be Sunday, August 28.
Shortly after opening in early 2015, AL’s Place earned the coveted honor of being named Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant in the Country. Gushing over dishes like pickle brine fries and green pea curry with black cod, critic Andrew Knowlton wrote: “What a deal with the culinary devil chef Aaron London made in exchange for power produce such original, flavorful-rich creations?… It’s such a personal, passionate and satisfying restaurant that it was easy to name AL’s Place this year’s best new restaurant in America.”
Other critics, Michelin inspectors and many Bay Area diners agreed and stood by the London restaurant’s request seven years later â its outdoor tables were also regularly full upon arrival amid the pandemic.
But after working steadily in the restaurant industry since he was 14, about to turn 39 and now with a partner and a one-year-old daughter at home, London says he’s ready to move on to a phase of life that doesn’t involve the consuming work of such a personal restaurant.
Like him tells the Chronicle“It is time and there is something more important [for me to do].”
It’s a familiar trajectory, certainly, for leaders in the position and phase of London life. His career to date and his reputation mean that it will be quite easy to land lucrative and less demanding gigs. And he tells the Chronicle he’s ready to write the cookbook he didn’t have time to run AL’s Place for, maybe do some consulting and maybe eventually land another restaurant job. here or elsewhere in the country.
London tells the Chronicle that, until recently, “Nothing really mattered but working as hard as you could to try to achieve something.” He adds: “If I was okay just getting burned, that’s one thing. But now there are other people in my life who need me not to get burned, who need me to be there. “
London also mentioned that the rising costs – and likely declining profitability – of running a small restaurant also contributed to her decision, even though AL’s Place is a “special and unique little place”.
It’s a loss, for sure, to the San Francisco culinary scene, and it comes at a time when many restaurateurs are discussing the unsustainability of the traditional restaurant model. Other big-name restaurants in the city like Che Fico and Zuni Cafe are experimenting with flat service charges and a fairer split of salaries between front and back staff â but those experiments are not without their complaints. from staff and/or customers.
London got her start washing dishes and doing prep work in the kitchens of Mexican and Greek restaurants in Sonoma County. After what he described to Vice in 2015 as a life-changing meal at the long-gone Santa Rosa restaurant Mixx when he was 15 or 16, he says he lied in a cooking class at a local college, then lied in a row – cook at Mixx, then landed a job at Daniel in New York, slowly learning the ropes to become one of the country’s most celebrated chefs.
At 27, London earned his first Michelin star in 2010 when he ran Ubuntu’s kitchen in Napa – taking over as executive chef after serving as head chef under Jeremy Fox in the famed early years. vegetarian restaurant. It was named Chronic Rising Star early the following year, and he told the newspaper that he saw himself as having two personalities:
His kitchen persona: the guy who has ironed military pleats in his culinary school jacket, who revels in precise knife work and the feeling of walking through a greenhouse in winter, who wears his hair in a tight bun.
His character outside the kitchen: the one with the wind in the hair, who dropped his phone in the toilet the day before the publication of the Michelin ratings and missed the call from the director of the Michelin Guide, Jean-Luc Naret, giving him a star…
In 2015, speaking to Vice, London called AL’s Place “my baby”, saying, “I love it so much…It looks and feels and feels like what I want…It’s what that I always wanted.”
But seven years later, London tells the Chronicle, “It’s slowly building and it got me thinking more and more late at night: Is this exactly what I want to do right now?” And he concluded that he had to “rebuild my professional life around the family”.
So if you can get a reservation, you still have ten days to say goodbye to AL’s Place.
Top photo via ALsPlace/Instagram