San Francisco’s Sons & Daughters has long held Michelin acclaim, yet the popular Nob Hill restaurant was recently bestowed with yet another honor from the revered restaurant guide. Executive Chef Harrison Cheney received the MICHELIN Guide California 2023 Young Chef Award, a recognition that stunned the charming and self-effacing chef who this past January was handed the Sons & Daughters baton from owner and former executive chef Teague Moriarty.
The Michelin Guide states that the Young Chef award is “given to a young starred chef with exceptional talent and great potential.” Anyone who has dined at Sons & Daughters can attest that yes, Cheney exhibits exceptional talent, and the Michelin portended potential has been more than met. The British born chef joined the intimate 16-seat Sons & Daughters in October 2022 and was appointed executive chef in January 2023. He has since transformed the 18-course tasting menu to reflect a culinary background that is steeped in new Nordic tradition.
As a teen, Cheney received his first introduction to Scandinavian cuisine while working at an Icelandic restaurant in London. He subsequently spent a quarter of his culinary career at two Michelin-starred Gastrologik in Stockholm, where he learned to appreciate what he calls the “purity” of the Nordic approach—a focus on acidity, brightness, and lightness. After honing his dishes for the past four seasons at Sons & Daughters, the thoughtfully composed tasting menu is his own creation. Cheney showcases modern, progressive dishes infused with new Nordic influence, anchored in classic cooking techniques, and highlighting the abundance of locally sourced, seasonal Northern California products. He works directly with local growers, farmers and purveyors in sourcing ingredients, and he is a firm believer in sustainability and in reducing the restaurant’s footprint; via “upcycling,” he seeks to ensure that nothing is wasted as he encourages his team’s creativity with byproduct. Example: from the in-house making of creme fraiche, buttermilk and butter, the whey is used in dishes and drinks. Vegetable off-cuts are utilized in stocks and sauces.
Cheney and his small team—including 2022 StarChefs Rising Star Pastry Chef Award Winner Michelle Fried—take center stage in the intimate dining room, where curved window banquets are poised toward the open kitchen and its deft and harmonious choreography. Every team member participates in a personalized approach to service of the multitude of delectable and visually arresting courses, several of which are presented on or within crockery made by Cheney’s mother Leigh Mason, a talented ceramics artist located in Plymouth, UK. Harrison also worked with Bay Area-based ceramicist Erin Hupp to create custom pieces for Sons & Daughters.
The descriptions for each course can make heads spin: A dollop of Aquitane derived caviar is served with a soup made from whites of the leeks, seasoned with housemade buttermilk, a by-product of the housemade butter. Lobster tail and claw are cooked in a brine made from salt, sugar, beer, and spices such as caraway, fennel, and dill seeds, which provide a flavor reminiscent of the traditional Swedish spirit aquavit. Sprouted and toasted buckwheat is served with morels and summer stems that are hand chopped with meticulous precision. Read: don’t try this at home. A customer favorite, and an item that is always on the ever-changing seasonal menu is Cheney’s signature grilled Maine scallop with brown butter and broth of roasted potatoes with dill vinegar, served with a small flatbread of house-milled rye and housemade crème fraîche, with roasted yeast served on the side. Cheney says this seemingly simple course encapsulates his career; he calls it “me” on a plate.
Don’t miss the sublime wine pairings of both classic and New World labels curated by sommelier David Kolvek to perfectly enhance each dish. (Sake also occasionally makes a showing.) Spirit free imbibers will want to try the non-alcoholic beverage pairing that mirrors the restaurant’s sustainability commitment. The siphon-brewed coffee service provides a great accompaniment to the meal-ending mignardise; on this visit: Chef Fried’s plum pate de fruit, tart with Yerena Farms strawberries and koji cream, and caraway seeded caramel bonbons. The tableside coffee preparation and dessert course are an entertaining and apropos denouement to a memorable evening, one that is enhanced by a playlist of jazz and R&B tunes curated by Chef Fried.
Sons & Daughters: 708 Bush St. San Francisco
Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner starting at 5:30 p.m.
Reservations can be made on Tock
An additional private dining room seats up to six guests
Photos courtesy of Sons & Daughters