Food & Drink: How sweet it is

Sweetwater café’s Gordon Drysdale merges food, art and music

by Tanya Henry

Bringing food, art and music together under one roof is what chef/restaurateur Gordon Drysdale says he was ultimately born to do. Those familiar with Gordon’s House of Fine Eats will recall the cavernous SoMa space that boasted modern art-covered walls, a hip music lounge and most memorably, a roasted brussels sprouts, egg and bacon salad.

Given the Mill Valley resident’s love for music and food, it is not all that surprising that he was asked to head up the kitchen at the revived Sweetwater Music Hall & Café, which reopened its doors in 2012. The newest incarnation of the venerable music institution is now housed next to what had been the longtime home of this weekly newspaper on Corte Madera Avenue in downtown Mill Valley.

Originally hailing from Rochester, New York, Drysdale came west after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park). Completing stints (honing his classical French technique) in New Jersey, multiple L.A. restaurants and Newport Beach–where he met his wife of 30-plus years–he eventually landed in the Bay Area in the late 1980s. Drysdale immediately went to work for Cindy Pawlcyn of Real Restaurants, where he was the opening chef at Bix and went on to the Buckeye Roadhouse before going back over the Golden Gate Bridge to run, for nearly 20 years, the ultra-sleek Caffé Museo in SFMOMA–designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. More recently, he opened several Pizza Antica pizzerias, including one in Strawberry that was conveniently located only eight minutes away from his Homestead Valley neighborhood (of 27 years).

“We still use beautiful, fresh ingredients and prepare them simply,” Drysdale says of his café menu at the Sweetwater. Occasionally he will even tailor a menu to fit the theme or tastes of visiting musicians. On that note, he was recently approached by music producer Tom Corwin to host a TV pilot entitled, “Starving Artists” that aims to introduce musicians through their love of food. For the shoot, Drysdale hosted Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers and enjoyed one of their favorite meals, followed by a performance by Bluhm and her band.

Having logged countless hours of backbreaking work running Bay Area restaurant kitchens, the fit and energetic Drysdale is more excited than ever about his craft. With a dizzying array of projects in the works–one of which includes revitalizing the working wharf in San Francisco–the accomplished restaurateur never takes himself too seriously. He frequently echoes British chef Marco Pierre White’s famous quip, “At the end of the day, it’s just lunch.”

Share your hunger pains with Tanya at [email protected]


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