Rick Hackett - Chef/Proprietor
A native of Michigan, Rick Hackett graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and learned the principles of nouvelle cuisine at Yannick Cam's acclaimed Washington D.C. restaurant Le Pavillon before moving to the Bay Area himself in 1979. There he became part of the American culinary revolution, working at such establishments as Chez Panisse, Bay Wolf, Oliveto, Postrio, and Acme Bread. In 1992, Hackett and his wife, Meredith Melville, reopened the fabled Enrico's in North Beach as a supper club featuring live music and California–Mediterranean cuisine. More recently the Executive Chef at the popular MarketBar in San Francisco's Ferry Building, Hackett has now created the perfect showcase for his innovative Pan-American cuisine, combining flavors and techniques from North, Central, and South America with Mediterranean traditions.
Meredith Melville - Owner
Got her first inside knowledge of the restaurant business as a server at Chez Panisse and Bay Wolf—where she met her future husband, Rick Hackett. Melville and Hackett went on to open the revivified North Beach landmark Enrico's. There, and at two other restaurants the couple subsequently launched, she developed a philosophy of service based on understanding and meeting the diner's wants and needs. "The most important thing we can do as restaurateurs," she says, "is to make each guest's overall experience a comfortable and memorable one."
John Jackson - Executive Chef
A Cleveland, OH native, John Jackson thought he'd be a genetics engineer until discovering his undying love for food and cooking while in college. "It was an especially delicious meal of macaroni and cheese made from scratch that compelled me to change life paths and enroll in culinary school," says Jackson. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts and began his career at Mike's on the Avenue in New Orleans, where he worked his way up to chef de cuisine for the contemporary Louisiana-Asian fusion restaurant.
He later moved west to work with Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group as executive sous chef, opening three Oritalia restaurants in three years time in San Francisco and Portland. Continuing to expand his culinary skills, Jackson landed next at Michelin-starred restaurant, The Village Pub in Woodside, CA as sous chef under Mark Sullivan.
In 2001, he followed his dream to run his own restaurant, opening Mix Restaurant in West Hollywood serving French-Mediterranean cuisine. The 85-seat restaurant received much acclaim from both local and national media. Four years later, he found himself at the award-winning Crepe Vine Bistro in Pasadena as the opening executive chef before moving back to Northern California. From there, he worked as the executive chef for The Toll House Hotel, a luxury property in Los Gatos, and Beets Hospitality Group to help open Casa Real, an event venue at Ruby Hill Winery, and Palm Event Center in Pleasanton. During his time with Beets Hospitality Group, Jackson entered and won the "People's Choice Award" during the annual Taste of Terroir event, competing against 16 Bay Area chefs for top honors. Jackson was most recently the executive chef for Michael's at Shoreline in Redwood City.
Jackson's arrival to Bocanova was a departure from his French, Southern and Mediterranean culinary background but also a welcomed challenge, saying "The pan-American food and cooking style was something new, but the dishes are simple, made from scratch and authentic, which is right in line with my own approach to cooking." As executive chef, Jackson oversees the menus at Bocanova, developing seasonally rotating Pan-American dishes in collaboration with Owner/Chef Rick Hackett. Currently residing in Oakland, Jackson spends time with his wife exploring the Bay Area dining scene and the great outdoors by hiking or camping. A thrill-seeker at heart, he enjoys sharp knives and driving fast.
A Michigan native, Beach found himself in the hospitality industry while attending the University of Missouri in 1989. He was studying journalism to become a food critic when he took a busboy position in a small family restaurant. When asked if he would like to make the move to the kitchen, Beach took the opportunity and never looked back. He soon wanted to expand outside of the casual dining environment and moved into fine dining.
Beach moved to Portland, Oregon, where he obtained his Professional Chef Training Certificate from the Western Culinary Institute and worked as Sous Chef at Couvron Restaurant. Inspired by an article in Gourmet that demonstrated the progressive and intensive nature of San Francisco restaurants, Beach next moved to San Francisco and secured a position at the prestigious Aqua Restaurant.
After Aqua, he ascended to the position of Executive Chef at Waterfront Restaurant. For the last 10 years, Beach has worked in and consulted with a variety of esteemed San Francisco restaurants, including The Republic, Infusion Lounge and Adagia Restaurant, where he used sustainable and local organic products in his daily-changing menu.
Joining Bocanova in June 2013 as Chef de Cuisine, Beach works closely with Executive Chef John Jackson and Chef/Owner Rick Hackett to create dishes for the restaurant's seasonal menu. Calling himself a true "locavore," he tries to source everything within 120 or 150 miles of the restaurant. "Of course we have those exceptions with certain ingredients being that this is a Pan-American restaurant, but sourcing as local as possible has always been very important to me," says Beach. "Buying everything local and in season is my philosophy. It all starts with a great product and after that, it's how you handle it. Respect for the ingredients is the most important part of creating a great dish."
When not at Bocanova, Beach spends time producing electronic music, creating crazy food science projects, like experimenting with meat glue, and spending as much time as possible with his nine-year-old daughter – the biggest inspiration in his life.
Paul Conte - Executive Pastry Chef
It's not uncommon for pastry chefs to move to the savory side of the kitchen (sometimes to great effect: think Michel Guérard and Michel Richard). Bocanova pastry master Paul Conte reversed the process: A graduate of the Culinary Arts program at the esteemed Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, Conte got his first restaurant experience cooking under Tom Colicchio at Mondrian in New York City. From there, he moved to the kitchen of the Plaza Hotel, where chef Kerry Simon recognized his latent talent as a pastry chef and encouraged him in that direction, moving him to the pastry station. Stints at restaurant legend Joe Baum's Aurora and the original China Grill, in Manhattan's CBS Building, followed. At the same time, Conte was developing his artistic talents through music, photography, and even a stint of painting animation cells with Broadcast Arts.