It's not easy to step out from under a master's shadow. The bright lights and heat that accompany any solo effort quickly reveal whether one will flourish or wilt. Chef Marc Meyer, who worked with Larry Forgione for five years in Forgione's landmark New York restaurant, An American Place, is flourishing quite well in San Francisco, thank you.
Meyer is the guiding culinary force at Brasserie Savoy, a new, 100-seat restaurant adjoining Hotel Savoy. The menu there showcases food that takes its cues from European traditions, particularly French and Italian, and uses the abundant seasonal ingredients of California. Items on Savoy's menu might include braised squid filled with shrimp; sea scallops with a ragout of field mushrooms in a red wine shellfish sauce; and lobster ravioli with spinach, leeks and yellow squash in a shellfish broth.
Despite San Francisco's Pacific location, only a few restaurants in the city are as devoted to seafood as the Savoy. Meyer, who also donned chef's whites at New York's Odeon, Greene Street Cafe and Royalton Hotel, has the confidence to concentrate on seafood while most shy away because, he says, "it's the easiest thing to ruin because of its delicate nature." In addition to a predominately seafood menu, the Savoy also features a magnificent raw shellfish bar. "What I'm serving here is straightforward food that is earthy, attractive, and a little bit sophisticated," he says. I'm not trying to impress, make a statement or turn dining into some kind of intellectual exercise." Instead, he's created a restaurant for people who may want only a half-dozen oysters and a bottle of beer, or a full-blown meal with an excellent wine.
Meyer, who studied architecture, theater arts and dance, developed a passion for food during extensive family travels, and that passion eventually won out. Forgione says Meyer's passion for food, his diverse background and his ability to work in conditions that are less than perfect separate him from the crowd. "Marc is an exceptional talent," Forgione says.