Cooking globally, sourcing locally

Illustration by Mark stivers

Canon fodder: As the sous chef at Mulvaney’s B&L, then the chef de cuisine at Grange, Brad Cecchi garnered rumblings of acclaim. But when he reached for the next rung on the ladder, he found none.

“It became obvious to me around 2010 that there wasn’t a job for me here,” Cecchi said. “[Grange] was locked in. Ella had a chef. The Kitchen had a chef. Mulvaney’s has Mulvaney. The Waterboy has Adam [Schulze]. So there wasn’t a job for the kind of ambition that I had.”

After several resume-building years away in Cleveland and Calistoga, Cecchi returns to Sacramento to oversee the kitchen at Canon East Sacramento (1719 34th Street), which opens to the public on October 10. The upscale tavern-style restaurant will offer a boutique beverage program and dishes designed to be shared, the way pizza or sushi is split at other restaurants, Cecchi said.

On the second iteration of a menu that will change with the seasons, he offers hearty plates like cider-lacquered smoked salmon with chicharrón and celery-root mousse ($32); and two pounds of slow-roasted lamb, complete with pickled raisins, mint yogurt and flatbread ($31). Starters include local squash in red curry ($10), house tots topped with mole sauce ($8) and chicken drumsticks seasoned with the smoky-sweet urfa chile pepper from Turkey ($8).

“If you’re not doing farm-to-fork, you’re irrelevant,” he said. “But we’re using fish sauce and garam masala and fermented black garlic and dried chilis from South America and the Middle East. We’re using the ingredients others brought to this region and painting our own picture with it.”

Canon’s owner, Clay Nutting, experienced some legal issues surrounding payments to vendors at his ambitious and now-discontinued TBD Fest. Nutting admitted the music festival “didn’t work out,” but he and Cecchi add that their investors are all “feeling good” about the restaurant.

And not without reason. Before the grand opening, Cecchi said he sold out three invitation-only dinner services of 140 people in less than two hours. With his wife due to have a baby any day, Cecchi seems ready to settle into a kitchen with space for his ambition.

“The name of our restaurant is our road map of how to operate,” he said. “Across the board, we wanted to offer the canon of what we thought was cool and delicious. And I want to be among the canon of chefs in this town.”