Chef Collaboration Dishes Coming to Cafe Carnegie in Oakland
Look for local chefs to add seasonal specials to the menu of the restaurant located in the lobby of the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History.
On Monday, the Cafe Carnegie in Oakland introduced a rotating special featuring a signature dish from a notable Pittsburgh chef. Csilla Thackray, executive chef of Churchview Farm, is the first chef up.
“I’m at the point in my career where I want to try new things. I love the idea of getting into the guts of another kitchen and seeing how they do things. That’s how I’ve learned all along,” Thackray says.
The idea is to cross-pollinate camaraderie with local chefs while adding a bit of pizzazz to the daytime restaurant in the lobby of the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, says Doug Genovese, executive chef of Culinaire Pittsburgh, the Dallas-based firm that oversees culinary operations for the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.
Thackray’s dish, roasted carrot risotto with dill pistou and homemade ricotta, speaks to the transition between winter and spring, a time where the early crops haven’t quite sprung and there’s often a lingering nip in the air, so eaters might still want something a little hardy for lunch.
Last Thursday, Thackray walked chef de cuisine Jake Kuhn through the steps to prepare the risotto, sweating shallots, toasting arborio rice and slowly incorporating white wine followed by a blend of carrot juice and vegetable stock. After folding in grated Pecorino Romano and butter, Thackray finished the dish with a few spoonfuls of oven-roasted carrots, a dollop of creamy housemade ricotta and a daubs of verdant dill pistou prepared with garlic and pistachios.
“I had to think of something that works for the menu that represents what I do but is also something that the chefs here will be able to reproduce,” Thackray says.
Genovese says that Thackray was an easy first choice — he’d gotten to know her over the years when she was executive chef of The Vandal in Lawrenceville and attended several dinners at the Baldwin Borough farm last season, Thackray’s first as executive chef of Churchview.
“Her cooking style fits the restaurant, too,” he says, noting Thackray’s emphasis on vegetable-forward cooking and her commitment to reducing food waste.
As for the rest of Cafe Carnegie’s menu, it remains guided by the ethos introduced when the restaurant opened in late 2016 — serving approachable and flavorful vegetable- and whole-grain forward dishes that make you feel better for eating them (original consulting chef Sonja J Finn, who also owned Dinette, left her position in mid-2020 to pursue opportunities outside the hospitality industry). Even with the additions of dishes such as chicken schnitzel and a short rib and brisket burger, the establishment remains at its core a lovely place to get a flavorful lighter lunch with items such as butternut squash bisque and poached salmon salad with lentils, green beans and roasted celeriac.
Kuhn, who started at the restaurant in 2018, says he’s transitioning into springtime with the introduction of dishes such as Paresian gnocchi with spring peas, pancetta, manchego and dill and grilled asparagus with burrata, wild garlic pesto and pine nuts.
Thackray’s risotto will remain on the menu through mid-June. Genovese says he’s in the process of lining up the next couple of chefs. “We’re excited to see seasonal techniques and different uses of produce,” he says.
4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland; 412/622-3225, thecafecarnegie.com