Interviews Interview with a Chef: Thomas McNaughton

| Wednesday, 16 July 2014 12:00

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 3.22.57 PMSometimes you find yourself scoring last minute reservations to the trendiest restaurant in town all thanks to a friend. Upon completion of this dining experience, you may also understand why it’s so tough to get reservations. Flour + Water’s, Thomas McNaughton has been killing the food scene with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and homemade pasta that restore your faith in the good old fashion restaurant. Simply put: Flour + Water lives up to the hype.

We chatted with McNaughton about Flour + Water and what makes it so great.

Angelique Picanco: I come from a very Italian background and avoid Italian restaurants because, let’s face it, I can get it at home. But the pasta at Flour + Water is so much like my Nonna’s. What are you doing right?

TM: After 5 years, we have been lucky enough to still have a line out the door every night and it all comes down to changing the menu on a daily basis and staying true to the traditions of pasta making that were instilled in me during my time in Italy. Also, trying out new ingredients, flavor profiles and maybe a little extra butter than you might use at home!

AP: How often do you make fresh pasta. When do you decide that you’ll switch things up and make maccaroncelli VS. pappardelle, for example. Who vetoes the pasta style choices?

TM: We make 50lbs a day. Production starts at 7am each morning. Every night after service the chefs get together around a table in the restaurant, discuss service and plan for the menu the next day. I want the environments in the kitchen to be very collaborative, so everyone is involved in finalizing the menu for the following day.

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Courtesy of Flour + Water’s Instagram

AP: I had the pleasure of dining at Flour +Water a couple of weeks ago. Four girlfriends and I shared the burrata with lardo, artichoke, kohlrabi, cardoon & saba to start, followed by the trenette with pork sugo, chili, pecorino romano & breadcrumbs, whole wheat campanelle with braised oxtail & red wine soffrito and the pork fattisu with savoy cabbage & whole grain mustard. We also shared the margherita pizza (pictures below). My favorite was the pork fattisu with savoy cabbage & whole grain mustard. Can you share the recipe with our readers (leaving out the secret ingredient of course)?


TM: This is one of the more classic dishes we do. The dish is steeped in history. Who knows, maybe the recipe will appear in the flour + water pasta cookbook coming out in September 2014!

AP: Smart, I like it. I need to know what your favorite pasta dish is, even if it’s not on Flour + Water’s menu right now.

TM: My all-time favorite is bigoli with broccoli, tomato and fresh shelling beans, so simple, but so delicious.

AP: General poll with Flour + Water team: Pro Sriracha, or against?

TM: Pro Sriracha. There has never been a family meal at flour + water without the Sriracha on the table!


AP: The James Beard Foundation nominated you and Flour + Water a couple of times now. That’s pretty impressive. Coincidentally, It’s hard to score a reservation… what would be the best time to come in and luck out on a seat or two?

TM: We always have a line at 5:30PM, but if you swing by on the later side there is usually a space or two at the bar or communal table.

AP: I’ve been stalking the Instagram feed. I noticed there are some new additions to the menu: cured sardines with baby beets, avocado & salmon roe, Spring lettuces with asparagus, radish, fennel, white balsamic & piave vecchio… I’m only one person, and a tiny one at that: what is a must try if I had to only pick one?

TM: Even by the time the question was finished our menu has changed. The menu changes daily, based on what is seasonal and fresh at the farmer’s market that day. My advice is always to come in and try a little bit of everything and come hungry… and maybe with some buddies to share with (or not).


Courtesy of Flour + Water’s Instagram

AP: I noticed that you guys have a pretty pooch named Ellie, who also doubles up as your mascot. May I suggest an area of the restaurant where customers can play with her?

TM: I have lived above the restaurant for a number of years and it always seems to be a zoo for many reasons, but the main reason is that I now have a pig (Kona), a dog (Ellie) and a bird (Penelope), so they all keep me very busy and you never quite know when they will pop there head up by the Dough Room, one of our private dining spaces.

AP: Finally, it seems like David Steele, David White, yourself are the perfect trifecta. If there’s one thing they agree on with respects to Flour + Water, what would it be?

TM: We are a great mix of personalities, we have the same vision, but differing views, so although we may have some challenging moments in a meeting… or two, we push each other to think differently.

Flour + Water

2401 Harrison St, San Francisco

Special thanks to Kate Michels and Thomas McNaughton.

By Angelique Picanco

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