The petite twice-baked potatoes with a dab of double-whipped sour cream crowned with a bit of golden caviar was a crowd-pleaser at an art exhibit reception that caterer and chef Ramni Levy organized this past Feb 16.
There were other savory and sweet culinary delights that Levy presented that were consumed in record time along with a choice selection of local wine from the Sonoma-Napa wine growing region. The Bluxome Street office of McGuire Real Estate in San Francisco's upbeat South Beach neighborhood (not far from AT & T Park, where The SF Giants play) - was the setting for the event. More than 150 people attended over the course of three hours. They all said they enjoyed the food.
"This turned out really well," said Lauren Bensinger who coordinated the event. As relocation director in McGuire's marketing department she has put together almost half a dozen art exhibit reception events in the past 18 months. The long-established San Francisco company sees the events as a way to make more connections to the local community and as marketing executive and VP Alex Buehlmann noted, "Its a great way to decorate empty walls and attract more clients," she said.
With the success of these quarterly art events, McGuire wants to continue and Levy is ready for his catering services to be engaged in the endeavor. Levy is by nature a 'go-getter.' This was something he just followed by intuition. He is used to following opportunities and getting things together as he moves along. "I live on Townsend, just blocks away from Bluxome," he said. "I had seen the McGuire sign frequently as I pass by, and thought, 'why not find out if they need my services'," he said.
Levy sees opportunities just about everywhere he goes. In fact, his very first venture in San Francisco more than a decade ago, was something of a lark. He admitted he was just visiting as his flight made a stop-over on the way to Las Vegas. "I was able to get away from SFO and found myself at The Cannery," he said. (The Cannery is a collection of shops and restaurants near Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Square).
Levy at the time served at Shell Vacations Club (a vacations resort company). He observed what the tourists were being served in some of the restaurants and thought to himself, "I could do this but only better." A fast talker as well as a quick learner, Levy over the following months made weekly trips to the East Coast. And, with connections there was able to work and establish a catering business. This helped him establish Bistro 1650 in San Francisco's Richmond District adjacent to Golden Gate Park.
"I was literally lost in the fog," he said. The original address he had been given by his contacts was for a restaurant space near the Pacific Heights area. But being new to San Francisco at that time, Levy thought where he ended up in the Richmond District was where he was supposed to be. "It really did not matter because, like the day I stepped off the plane on lay-over to Vegas, I knew this would be my new home," Levy said.
He arrived on the corner of 18th Ave and Balboa Street.This suited his vision just fine. "It had what I needed and so regardless of whether or not that was the address my contacts had given me, it was meant for me to find it and that is how Bistro 1650 emerged," he said.
Even the restaurant critic Robin Davis of the SF Chronicle was amazed that Levy was able to pull it all together with no previously established restaurant experience before. In her review back in October of 2000 she said of the Bistro's debut, "as Levy gets more experience, I could see it growing into a gem," she said.
Three years later, another critic Bill Daley, also from the SF Chronicle was impressed with Levy's endeavor.
And, while both critics saw Levy's flaws here and there they both raved about his food. "The mussels are lovely," said Daley in his review from January of 2003 and Davis said "the frittatas are sensational."
While each of them knit-picked various items and ambiance touches, they both rated Bistro 1650 as a good restaurant. And, while remaining critical as critics are, both praised Levy.
This is why Levy is confident his new venture as catering consultant and culinary extraordinaire will be a success. "San Francisco is a city with so much potential. People really don't realize this and that is why they are not thinking outside the box," said Levy. He hopes more people will recognize the importance of America's Cup event as being a tremendous opportunity for San Francisco.
This is one of the reason's why Levy is so passionate. Even Daley and Davis in their reviews noted his passion and dedication. Levy mentioned in his chat with this reporter over a cup of coffee at La Boulange' on fashionable Union Street near Pacific Heights, that he has always had a passion that challenged obstacles.
Levy, who as rabbi's son, was set upon the academic track for a degree in science and medicine. "I respect my parents and did what they wanted. I got the university degree," said Levy. "But I am a people person, he said. I am more suited to PR, hospitality and entertainment," he said. With college behind him, Levy left his Midwest upbringing and moved to New York City.
"That is where I really grew up, you have to in a place like New York City," said Levy. He hit the ground running so to speak and learned the public relations and event planning business as he went along. Levy said that he did a lot of art shows and special events during the 1980's and '90's "like for Dyansen Gallery, in Manhattan with a special event for artist, Erte' - that was when the art world was blooming," Levy said. Ron Parker who owned and managed the gallery at the time, remembers those parties for Erte'. "We also had parties for Elizabeth Taylor at the gallery and 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' TV host Robin Leach," said Parker by phone from his home. Parker now owns Parker and Parker Art in Pennsylvania.
While Levy is candid and says that his early life as a rabbi's son was heavily placed upon him, of that he lovingly rebelled, Levy never forgot the values his parent taught him.
"I still take time to help teach or offer an opportunity to someone who needs it," he said. The culinary industry is always in demand regardless of the economic climate. There are so many hopefuls who enter it. But, as Levy pointed out, who need a disciplined opportunity. Levy noted that working in a professional kitchen requires focus, dedication and hard work. When those candidates aspiring to hospitality work from the various culinary schools work with him, he let's them know right away that he is eager to give them an opportunity. "But that they must be prepared to work," he said.
So far, Levy's catering business has received all five star reviews on Yelp.
He is earnest in his efforts to fine tune his business to a specialty-boutique clientele. Even with that pin-pointed focus, Levy's ambition and passion sees more opportunities. With the rabbinical influence in his background, he would like to establish a really, truly Kosher deli and restaurant. He noted that while there are many places in San Francisco that serve up "Kosher style" food it is not the same as one can find in New York or other places. "Here again, San Francisco has the potential as I know there is a hunger for authentic Kosher food here," he said.
For more information about Levy and his catering business visit his web page at Yelp
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