Name: Ethan Fletcher
Where he Sits: Traveler’s Desk. Ground Floor
Look around the dining room of almost any restaurant. Seems like everybody’s on their phone. Ethan Fletcher often is. Difference being, he isn’t playing Angry Birds or Instagramming. He’s actually working. As a veteran food writer and freelance editor of Diablo Magazine’s Food Scene section, Fletcher players the role of undercover Anton Ego (without the imperious attitude), covering all things culinary around the East Bay. Temescal Works dropped by his desk to ask about his (seemingly) enviable job.
TW: Food writer, eh? Sounds pretty cool. How’d you land that gig?
Fletcher: Blind luck. I was an assistant editor at Diablo magazine (in Walnut Creek) and started helping out the Food Scene editor after she saw that I was interested in food (who isn’t?). She and Diablo ended up parting ways right as the Great Recession hit. There was a hiring freeze, so my boss said, “kid, food coverage is all yours.” I ran with it.
TW: Then again, no job is every as glamorous as it sounds. What’s the hardest thing about the work? Any downsides we might not have considered?
Fletcher: Definitely a privileged problem, but sometimes I miss dining out without having to concentrate on what I’m eating. I try to bring my wife along to restaurants I review—I really value her opinion, she has the better palate—but I’m always completely distracted. (I take notes during dinner on my phone, so to all the world it looks like I’m the worst date ever). It’s also hard to keep the weight downâ€¦
TW: Your desert island dish?
Fletcher: The older I get the more I appreciate simple dishes. I’d probably go: Meat: Baked chicken leg with a dijon pan sauce (made by adding mustard and white wine to the pan drippings). 2) Carb: Spaghetti aglio e olio—chopped garlic and red pepper flakes, good olive oil, salt & pepper, and grated pecorino. (My wife adds a finely minced anchovy while sautéing the garlic. It basically dissolves into the oil but adds an incredible salty/umami punch). Veggie: boiled broccolini finished with olive oil and salt.
TW: A friend is coming to Oakland and looking for two recommendations: a budget place, and a blowout special occasion restaurant. Where are you sending them and why?
Fletcher: The bane of every food writer is recommending restaurants. There are many places these days and everyone has different tastes. That being said…
Modest: Teni East Kitchen. It’s a healthier, less-crowded alternative to Burma Superstar. Love the Kale tea leaf salad, pea shoot salad, roti, coconut bay leaf shrimp, chicken wings, they just introduced these spicy noodles that are great. Everything tastes light but has so much flavor. And you can still get a table without waiting for an hour. Honorable mentions: Tacos Oscar, Starline Social Club, Brotzeit Local. Great, unpretentious food and settings that feel distinctly Oakland.