Tapped to become Executive Chef at the evolving Assembly restaurant, Jessica Yarrâ€”barely into her 30sâ€”enjoys a substantial resumÃ© of local establishments that includes Gabriella Cafe, Theoâ€™s, River CafÃ© and most recently Mint in Scotts Valley. Pastry has long been a specialty of the mother of three, and for the past seven months Yarr has managed the pastry chef program at The Penny Ice Creamery. Yarr says she felt an instant kinship with Assembly/Penny co-owner Kendra Baker.
â€œShe was also a woman chef with small children, so I felt good about that,â€ says Yarr. â€œI was happy to join their team.â€
Once onboard, Yarr began working with the many Penny/Assembly events. â€œI became Kendraâ€™s go-to for events. I did two Outstanding in the Fields, a Live Earth Farm, and a Route One dinner,â€ and plenty of farmers market pop-ups, she says. â€œThey knew I was more interested in full-service restaurant work, and they asked me to be Executive Chef at Assembly.â€
Yarr is already getting the lay of the land. â€œItâ€™s busy in unpredictable ways,â€ she says. â€œItâ€™s huge, and itâ€™s a challenge.â€ But, she says, she intends to give it her best, and â€œto see what I can bring to this role. Itâ€™s a definite step forward and up from what Iâ€™ve done in the past.â€
The new chef wants to attract â€œa real diversity, especially some younger patrons.â€ Yarr acknowledges that the sheer size of the restaurant, developed by business partners Zach Davis and Kendra Baker, cuts into a sense of comfort that some patrons seek.
â€œWe need to be targeting millennials. They work hard for their money, and they want quality foods that are good values. People who go to gastropubs, who are interested in fermented and artisan foods,â€ she says. Yarr believes that the Baker/Davis presence has already elevated the local food scene. â€œNow the restaurant is the last piece that needs to be polished,â€ she says.
As far as new menu design, Yarr chuckles that her job is to â€œcompete with the burger,â€ Â Assemblyâ€™s popular signature. â€œAccessible food, but food that they canâ€™t do at home,â€ she explains. â€œI would like to work on fermented, sprouted, crafted foods. More in-house condiments. Iâ€™m not there yet. I have to wrap my brain around the beast first.â€
We canâ€™t wait to taste what Yarr can do with such an ambitious kitchen. assembly.restaurant.
Swing Shift at Soif Wine
John Locke, for years the red-haired oeno-savant at Soif, has exited the building to devote himself fulltime to Birichino, the wine brand he partners with Alex Krause. A brick and mortar tasting room is being conceived as we speak. This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that Locke gets to reinvent himself yet again, after years as the savant conspirator with Randall Grahm on the infamous newsletter and other linguistic hijinks. And, after shaping and styling the wine inventory, the wine events, and the seemingly limitless wine lore offered to Soif patrons over the past 10 years, Locke will turn his talents to developing his own stable of Birichino wines. The other good news is that â€œtwo weeks ago, we/they hired a gentleman named Brett Tebo to work with Alyssa [Twelker] on the wine programs,â€ he says. Locke feels that with a substantial Bay Area wine resumÃ© Tebo â€œwill make a great addition and a needed fresh pair of eyes. My admiration for Alyssa is immense. Few realize what a prodigy she really is. I am sure she will shine in this new arrangement,â€ says Locke. The bad news is that Soif regulars will lose the mercurial and impish presence of Lockeâ€™s seemingly endless wine expertise. Change happens. Stay tuned.