by Fernando Quintero
In his first year as executive chef at the new-and-improved Faculty Club, Scott Walker has single-handedly taken the club's menu out of the Disco Era and into the Alice Waters Age.
As Walker explained the mixed metaphors: "We got away from '70s food -- a 'diet plate' of canned peaches with cottage cheese and funky chef salads. Now, we take advantage of stuff that's locally available and in season."
"We do fresh kiwis, strawberries and peaches. Focacia sandwiches stuffed with grilled zucchini and eggplant with sun-dried tomato salsa," said the former chef for Max's in San Francisco. "Stuff you'd find in a quality Berkeley restaurant."
Walker's appointment last November came shortly after Felix Solomon took over as general manager. Solomon, a former manager for Hyatt and Sheraton hotels, hired Walker as part of his overall effort to improve service at the club.
Walker and Solomon hope to make the Faculty Club a more popular lunchtime and dinner destination for faculty and staff. A pleasant place for friends and colleagues to gather and enjoy the comfortable surroundings of the historic Bernard Maybeck building.
The club now sports new breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
"We've received great feedback from people who wanted a change," said Walker, who follows the food philosophy of local restaurateur and cookbook author -- and Berkeley alumna -- Alice Waters: serving creative combinations of in-season, locally grown and raised produce, meat, poultry and fish.
"Still," Walker added, "we have 1,800 members. It's a big challenge to please everyone. Some people still want tapioca pudding and liverwurst sandwiches."
In an attempt to introduce his revamped menu to club members and visitors, Walker has established food "themes" on the menu each month. He began at the height of the peach season last summer, featuring such items as peach and cilantro chutney and good old-fashioned peach cobbler. He followed with a "Tomato Festival" in August, and "Salmon in September" featuring fresh, Northern California catch.
Last month's menus included fettucini tossed with local Pacific Salmon and asparagus in a light lemon cream sauce, and smoked salmon carpaccio with capers and parmesan cheese on mixed organic greens with a Dijon mustard dressing. Hungry yet?
This month, Walker highlights beers from local microbreweries for his "Oktoberfest Celebration." German foods will also crop up on the menu, such as Bratwurst with purple and white cabbage, and potato pancakes with fresh sour cream.
Walker, 33, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and was a banquet chef for Sheraton Hotels before coming to the Bay Area. Walker said he was attracted to the position at the club because of its location in a world-renowned campus.
Walker was recently recruited by Health*Matters, which sponsors wellness seminars for staff and faculty, to teach a cooking class. His first class, "Gourmet Cooking Made Light and Easy," filled up in a matter of days. Walker said he hopes to offer more classes later in the year.