She studied at the Culinary Institute, she’s done Top Chef, she’s worked internationally from London (where she trained with Jamie Oliver) and New York’s Aquavit to New Orleans’ Sazerac. She was executive chef at San Francisco’s legendary Sir Francis Drake Hotel. So where will you find Jen Biesty these days? At Shakewell
Restaurant (www.shakewelloakland.com) in Oakland, of course. The stunning Spanish/Mediterranean restaurant, her first venture as an independent restaurateur, opened with longtime friend Tim Nugent in mid-2014.
As Biesty can tell you, Oakland is where it’s at. Having worked for years in San Francisco, upon deciding to open her own place, Oakland beckoned with its burgeoning foodie scene. “I had been in San Francisco since 1995,” she recalls, “and we looked at spots there, but were having a hard time finding the right size, the right location. The realtor said, ‘Hey, what do you think about Oakland?’”
It was an idea that hadn’t occurred to her: “I went into it slightly blind. I’d never spent much time here.” People she knew weren’t exactly gung-ho on the idea either. “We would talk to people to invest, and they’d say, ‘Oakland? Why would you not open in San Francisco? You’ve been there 20 years now.’ Well, this was the right place for it.”
For Biesty, having the right place is key. She points out the (already in place) wood-burning oven, the street location on a much-trafficked, popular avenue, the high ceilings. “So this was risky,” she notes, “but it was the right decision. We like being part of this new thing that’s been happening in Oakland.”