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by Amanda Berne,
reprinted from "S.F. Chronicle" September 28, 2005

Paul Canales Becomes Chef at Oliveto

The rise of celebrity chefs poses a quandary. Chefs who have proven their mettle on the line tend to move out of the kitchen and into the spotlight, often for good. Unbeknownst to many diners, the chef often has little to do with actually running the kitchen.

The whole situation can become overblown, so there's something at once refreshing and stunning about the changes taking place at Oliveto in Oakland.

Nationally renowned Paul Bertolli has left the kitchen -- his employment contract was not renewed when it ended in July.

Bertolli, who was chef at Oliveto for 11 years and is a partner, still has shares in the restaurant, but will be a mostly silent partner from this point on.

Instead, he will put all his energy into his salumi business, something that he and Oliveto partners Bob and Maggie Klein recognized was consuming his attention.

Bertolli has appeared in the food media recently (including last week's Chronicle Food section), touting his new salumi business, Fra' Mani Handcrafted Salumi, set to open in January 2006.

Chef de cuisine Paul Canales, who has been the mastermind in the Oliveto kitchen, taking care of menu planning, hiring, firing and ordering, now is the official chef.

"It's been quite a while since Paul was acting chef," says Bob Klein. "We're really not trying to promote a celebrity chef here."

For Klein, this all came to a head after one of Oliveto's recent special dinners, the Whole Hog. "A few weeks after, a nice review of the dinner mentioned Bertolli, but never mentioned Canales," when Canales had created the menu, Klein says.

Klein is hoping to promote a learning environment in which chefs will meet with farmers, go on training trips to Italy and work with one another to bring more creative ideas into the kitchen.

"Canales has a deep understanding of this," says Klein. "The restaurant is not built on one person, but on a collection of hardworking, skilled, deeply knowledgeable people who are turned on to learning every day."

As for Bertolli, Klein and Canales both recognize what an amazing teacher he's been, especially when it comes to the salumi. Oliveto will use some of Bertolli's salumi when the company gets started. Bertolli says he supports Canales as the new chef, a role he confirms Canales has already had for about five years.


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