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Chef Jan Birnbaum
Photography By: Mark Leet
Renowned throughout the culinary world as an unrivalled architect of creative cuisine and a virtuoso of bright flavors and intensity, Birnbaum began his career in New Orleans with renowned chef Paul Prudhomme at the famous K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. Starting as a baker, he worked his way up through the ranks to the position of lead cook. Before arriving in the Bay Area, Birnbaum sharpened his skills and earned distinction at a number of esteemed restaurants throughout the U.S., including New York City’s Quilted Giraffe and The Rattlesnake Club in Denver.
Birnbaum made an immediate impact on the San Francisco restaurant scene when he was recruited to serve as head chef at San Francisco’s prestigious Campton Place Hotel, elevating the restaurant to four-star status and garnering awards and accolades that included Food and Wine magazine’s Top 25 Restaurants in America, the DiRona Award for distinguished restaurants in North America, and the Conde Nast Traveler Distinguished Restaurant Award. He also was featured on Julia Child’s Master Chefs series on PBS.
Birnbaum opened Catahoula in the town of Calistoga in the Napa Valley in 1994. As proprietor and chef, Birnbaum created a unique restaurant that quickly became a popular destination for serious food and wine lovers, earning rave reviews and glowing features in publications from the New York Times to Gourmet magazine. In 2003, Birnbaum closed Catahoula to explore new projects in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Birnbaum brought to San Francisco’s EPIC Steak (then EPIC Roasthouse) his signature philosophy of honest cooking and the experience of an acclaimed, 30-year career to create a menu of fun, inventive, contemporary interpretations of traditional steakhouse favorites. With the opening of EPIC, Birnbaum was able to bring his wealth of experience and creative flare to one of the city’s most exciting new restaurants – a “room with a view” as Jan put it, referencing the dining room’s spectacular views of the bay and the bridge. The ‘modern roasthouse’ he envisioned provided him with a stage to showcase not only steaks and roasts, but an array of seafood preparations that he had perfected over the years.
EPIC diners also experienced Jan’s prowess with wood-fired cooking, as he masterfully presided over his custom-built wood- fired hearth and large wood-burning oven.
Birnbaum retired from day-to-day operations at EPIC in 2013.