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Katherine Stern Takes Over Kitchen at Bad Animal

Chef Katherine Stern

September 14, 2021 – Bad Animal has good news to report. Very good news, in fact, as the stylish venue is adding a respected and popular chef in Katherine Stern.

The Cedar Street space already enjoys a wealth of intrigue between its curated used bookstore offerings and magnetic natural wine program (with a dash of local craft beer). 

Now it rekindles its food offerings with a local star who takes over the kitchen beginning Wednesday, Sept. 15. Bad Animal serves food and drink from 5-9pm Wednesday-Sunday, while the bookshop opens at noon.

At Bad Animal, Stern will steer a new incarnation of The Midway, a pandemic-era invention that dished memorable, Tuscany-inspired, brunch-leaning food at weekend farmers markets, as Edible Monterey Bay’s Amber Turpin reported in October 2020.  

Local food fans will also remember Stern’s gift for rustic, creative and decidedly fresh fare from a decade-long stint at La Posta. 

A Midway farmers market dish of Roasted eggplant and Jimmy Nardello peppers with lentils, spiced yogurt and pomegranate

Bad Animal co-owner Jessica LoPrete is a chef herself, with a resume including San Francisco restaurants Contigo, Zuni Café, and Zen Center’s Greens at Fort Mason, so her commentary on the addition carries added perspective. 

“Katherine’s farmers market-driven cuisine will be the perfect complement to our natural wine program,” LoPrete says. “Her ethos of sourcing top-quality products from local farmers, many of whom she has cultivated close and longstanding relationships with, is very much in alignment with our focus on natural, low-intervention wines.” 

Stern envisions a rotating menu delivering small plates, salads and a handful of bigger dishes. It will resemble a similar format that Bad Animal has offered historically, though, as she says, “I’m not going off what they used to do, but the format I want to do, for people that want a glass of wine and a few nibbles.”

Bad Animal will work the front of the house for what will be a counter-service concept. “A more casual feel, but still with good food,” Stern says.

Stern’s Labor Day weekend special was Braised Mariposa Ranch Beef Brisket with Cornbread and Slaw

When asked what has her most stoked for the new chapter in her culinary arc, it’s as simple as having a kitchen to call her own. “Doing my business at the farmers market and at a communal shared kitchen has been great, as far as food, but now I’m going to be leaning more toward dinner than daytime,” she says. “I’m excited to use all the local produce from the market, proteins that are more for dinner—I haven’t been able to serve duck or fish for breakfast—and making pasta again, stuff like that. In all, it’s going to be the same theme I always cook with: using everything we have here locally.”

For example, a rotolo pasta roll stuffed with local Fogline Farm pork will be on the opening night menu. 

From there Edible and Stern conducted a speed-round-of-sorts, with five questions and five efficient answers precisely because she was eager to get back to what she’s most focused on: Getting ready for a fast-arriving dynamic debut.

1. What are you most excited about for this chapter of your cooking journey?

“I’m excited about being able to feed customers in the presence of good books and wine.”

2. How did your previous chapters set this one up?

“Any and all experience sets you up for future chapters.”

3. What will surprise people about what you’re doing?

“It’s not strictly Italian.” 

4. How has life with twins helped inspire you?

“We can juggle anything.” 

5. What are some seasonal specials and ingredients you’re looking forward to?

“Whatever is in season next.”

Stern adds that she plans to keep The Midway operating at the Saturday Westside Santa Cruz farmers market and the Sunday Live Oak farmers market, but will not be there this upcoming weekend as she settles into the new routine. More at badanimalbooks.com.

About the author

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Mark C. Anderson is a writer, photographer, editor and explorer based in Seaside, California. Reach @MontereyMCA by way of Instagram and Twitter.