Chef David Lawrence Creates Toe-Tapping Food

When Chef David Lawrence of 1300 on Fillmore arrives, you know the joint will be jumping.

Chef talks to audience

Chef David Lawrence sets the mood at Fresh Starts Chef Events

That held true at Fresh Starts Chef Events when the personable chef presented a menu from his restaurant/jazz lounge with a backdrop of music from saxophonist Rob Roth and the Jazz Cookers. He started the evening with emcee Chef Rachelle Boucher by announcing, “We’re going to have a lot of fun tonight.”

Why jazz? Because it is an important part of the experience at 1300 on Fillmore, founded seven years ago in the historic San Francisco neighborhood by David and his wife, Monetta White.

Plates of salad in the kitchen.

A salad include house-cured duck pastrami and honey-pomegranate vinaigrette.

As he demonstrated dishes for a three-course menu, starting with the duck pastrami for his grilled red pear salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette, the chef recounted growing up in public housing in England, his Jamaican roots, and how he came to be a chef.

His hero while a teenager was TV’s “Galloping Gourmet”, Graham Kerr, whose lighthearted show always ended with Kerr selecting an attractive woman from the audience to share his food. The young David decided, “I can do that.”

Students ladle beans into bowl.

Students prepare lima beans with tomato-anise broth.

Despite his talents, honed in French training and Michelin-starred restaurants, he disarmingly told the audience, “For me to have made it shows anyone can do it.”

Chef David gets serious about food, using fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients in his unique take on Southern-style cuisine. He cares about how diners enjoy his menu and circulated through the room stopping at each table to ask, “Is it good?”

Chef adds herbs to plate.

Chef David garnishes the roast bronzino bass.

Guests answered with a resounding “yes” for all dishes, which were prepared by Fresh Starts Culinary Academy with his recipes. The main dish was a pan-roasted bronzino bass in tomato anise broth with roasted sunchokes — irresistible even for the usually fish-phobic.

To end the meal, Chef David prepared a pumpkin cheesecake—“a great cheesecake for fall”—with a gingersnap crust. He used cream cheese for his demonstration but says he often substitutes tangy goat cheese at the restaurant.

He told the audience, “I love coming here,” but since he’s a busy man, it could be awhile until his next visit to Fresh Starts Chef Events. Head to 1300 on Fillmore for a refill on toe-tapping energy, especially if you can experience the popular gospel brunch – according to Chef David, it’s “the only place where you can get ‘church’ and alcohol” together. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos from Neely Wang.

Chef adds garnish to cheesecake.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust — Makes 9-inch pie

For the gingersnap crust:

About 40 gingersnap wafers (to yield 2 cups cookie crumbs)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2½ ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:
1 lb. (four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
One 15-ounce can pure solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

For the crust:

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Pulse the cookies and brown sugar in a food processor until well combined and the crumbs are uniform.

Transfer to a medium bowl; add the melted butter. Combine thoroughly, first with a spoon and then with your fingers, until the mixture is evenly moist, crumbly, and holds together when you squeeze a handful.

Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and partly up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Chill for 5 minutes and then bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.

For the filling:

Start by heating a kettle of water (you’ll use it later.) With an electric mixer or a wooden spoon, beat the cream cheese until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.

Add this mixture to the cream cheese. Beat until well blended, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, making sure each is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next, and scraping down the bowl after each. Blend in the vanilla and pumpkin.

For the pie:

Scrape the batter into the cooled crust. The batter will come up past the crust and will fill the pan to the rim. Tap the pan gently once or twice on the counter to release any air bubbles.

Set the pan in a larger baking dish (a roasting pan is good), and add enough hot water from the kettle to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the top of the cake looks deep golden and burnished and the center is set (the cake may just barely begin to crack), about 1 hour 35 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. The cake will jiggle a little bit when tapped. The top may rise a bit but will settle as it cools.

Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a thin-bladed knife between the crust and the pan sides (this will prevent the cake from breaking as it cools). Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack.


About Fresh Starts Chef Events

Fresh Starts Chef Events offers a parade of presentations by celebrity chefs, cookbook authors and artisan producers in The Key Room. Visit the online calendar at for upcoming events. Our list of presenters includes luminaries from the worlds of food, wine and restaurants who share stories, demonstrate techniques and offer tips on making the most of our local bounty. You can register online for upcoming classes or call us for more details at 415-382-3363 x243. Proceeds from our events support shelter and job-training programs at Homeward Bound of Marin; learn more at and
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