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Best of people: Jason Fox

Lob a perfect, farmers’ market–procured Elberta peach at any neighborhood restaurant in the Bay Area, and you’re bound to hit a roast-beet salad or a sashimi-like starter. One recent evening, for instance, Bar Tartine in the Mission featured both a baby beet–blood orange salad with fennel and avocado, and yellowtail crudo with fava beans and grapefruit—impeccable ingredients left pretty much alone. But hidden in Jason Fox’s seemingly by-the-book menu are distinct traces of molecular gastronomy, an in-vogue movement that uses powders and derivatives to change the texture of food. That beautifully seared cylinder of deboned quail? It’s bound with Activa, aka transglut­aminase or meat glue. The bacon cream on the fresh pea soup? It’s actually that most unnecessarily dreaded export of the movement: a foam. Fox doesn’t advertise these tricks of the avant-garde trade; in a city that can be far too self-satisfied in its food tastes, he just believes in mindful innovation. After all, many now standard culinary techniques were once considered new and weird. “Whoever first invented sabayon probably got chased out of their village,” Fox says. Bar Tartine: 561 Valencia St., 415-487-1600, tartinebakery.com/barTartine

Fox's obsessions

The backwoods: “From my place in Mill Valley, it’s an 800-foot hike to Ring Mountain. Who else in the country can live in a metropolis and still hike in their backyard?”

Music for the masses: “I love the Independent. I don’t get to go all that often, but they always have a great mix of bands.”

Stating the obvious: “Yes, we get the best stuff in the country here. Joseph Minocchi at White Crane, for example, grows the most amazing variety of artisanal greens, which we get to showcase on the plate.”

Dim sum: “My wife, Shawna, and I are fans of Koi Palace in Daly City. They have more variety than anyplace else I’ve been.”

Keeping things spicy:
“Jing Tio at Le Sanctuaire has the most amazing spices. We use at least six different kinds of pepper at the restaurant, and they all come from him.”

David Kinch’s cooking: “At the higher-end level of dining, I think his work at Manresa is a superb example of the right way to merge old and new techniques.”