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Protégé 'officially under construction' in Palo Alto

Uploaded: Aug 4, 2017
The metal bones of a restaurant are emerging inside 250 California Ave. in Palo Alto.

It's the future home of Protégé Restaurant, the brainchild of two French Laundry alums, former sommelier Dennis Kelly and sous chef Anthony Secviar.

"Nearly a year after filing for our building permits, Protégé is officially under construction!" the co-owners wrote in an update to email subscribers on Thursday. "It’s been a long and bumpy road, but we are eager to put our delays behind us and focus on the future as we build our restaurant."

A Protégé Instagram post of Anthony Secviar inside the in-progress restaurant on California Avenue.

The project secured City Council approval earlier this summer after the restaurateurs nearly pulled out due to increasing frustration with a delayed permitting process, the building owner said in June. Kelly and Secviar had originally hoped to open in late 2016.

With that process in the rearview, a team of Bay Area design, construction and branding companies "have been working hard to mold our vision into a unique, neighborhood-friendly space," Kelly and Secviar wrote.

The team includes Keith Morris of Studio KDA, which designed Comal in Berkeley, among other Bay Area restaurants; Jon De La Cruz of Oakland-based D L C- I D, behind Leo’s Oyster Bar in San Francisco; Levi Hunt of San Francisco-based Echo Summit Construction, which built Louie’s Gen Gen Room in the City; and San Diego-based branding agency LESS+MORE, behind Searsucker San Diego.

A peek inside the 250 California Ave. space (excuse the reflections). Photo by Elena Kadvany.

Protégé will also feature several Bay Area artists, the co-owners wrote in their email, including knot-driven art by Windy Chien of San Francisco and dinnerware made with California clay by Jered Nelson. (Nelson's resume includes work with Bay Area restaurants like Chez Panisse and Coi and chefs like Daniel Patterson and Michael Mina.)

The restaurant comes with strong credentials. Kelly is a master sommelier who worked at the renowned French Laundry in Yountville for a decade and in 2012, was one of only four people to be granted a master sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Secviar was sous chef at The French Laundry from 2005 to 2011, when he left to become chef de cuisine at Addison, a San Diego fine-dining restaurant. Secviar's resume also includes stages at several Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain, including El Bulli, Akelarre and Kokotxa.

At an Architectural Review Board meeting in June, Secviar said that "it is our dream to have a world-class restaurant here in the heart of Silicon Valley, to train employees in the culinary arts, to employ people and to serve our community."

On Thursday, Kelly and Secviar wrote that they have "learned from our mistake(s) of trying to forecast an opening date" and are now "crossing our fingers for a late 2017 opening."

Stay tuned.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by foothills, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 4, 2017 at 8:37 am

Finally! Great perseverance from everyone involved.

Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Sounds like just another snooty new restaurant for folks with money to burn.

Posted by I will be there, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Aug 5, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Mark Silverman-- sounds like you like to post negative comments about restaurants that have not even opened yet. I guess when you live in me love park you feel you actually know what you are talking about.

Personally I am glad to see that they will open soon despite the efforts of " watchdogs" whose sole purpose is to have strict any and all new development in the city.

Posted by Random Palo Alto commenter, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 6, 2017 at 1:23 am

Some of the commenters here make me wonder why anyone would bother opening a new business in Palo Alto.

"You aren't building the exact business that I want, serving my needs, hours, providing me and my car with its own personal parking space, et cetera ad nauseam. So I'm going to say nasty things online before you open your door to your first customer. That's how I like to welcome new business owners to Palo Alto."

Well, gee, that is very neighborly and mature of you.

Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm

To those offended by my cynicism, it just seems like a sizable number of Palo Altans are preoccupied with if the entire universe revolves around restaurants and their bellies. *LOL*

Remember, gluttony (along with a fixation of food) is one of the 7 deadly sins. Eating to live is one thing. Living to eat another. *L*

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Aug 7, 2017 at 7:58 am

@Mark Silverman:

Peninsula Foodist is a food blog "with an eye for local food news, from restaurant openings and closings to emerging food trends". Elena likes to write about new restaurant happenings, openings, et cetera.

If you don't want to read about restaurants, DON'T READ HER BLOG. Go read someone else: Doug Moran, Stephen Levy, Cheryl Bac.

But repeatedly criticizing new business owners especially restaurants that you haven't even opened is mean spirited.

Do you think people in Paris, Munich, or New York do that? If some chef wants to open a 12 seat kappo-style restaurant in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo, do you think people grab their pitchforks and complain? NO.

Okay, so you think this restaurant may be too expensive for you to go regularly. That doesn't necessarily make it undesirable. If you want a diner that serves $2 stacks of pancakes, meatloaf, $1 hot dogs, and $0.50 bottomless cups of coffee, feel free to start one yourself.

Or would you rather see a Chipotle at this location? Then vote for Palo Alto City Council members who are happy to have chain retail in the California Avenue business district, screw the independents.

Fine, so you don't like the restaurant concept. Take your food dollars and spend them elsewhere. Go to that hole in the wall taqueria for $2 carnitas tacos. No one here will mind.

But stop sounding like some provincial anti-social, anti-business philistine.

Posted by Mark Silverman, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm


OK. I'll take my 19/BMI (and dining dollars) elsewhere.

BTW, it's not so much about a hankering for $1 hot dogs but rather the overall pretentiousness of some PA diners. *L*

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Aug 8, 2017 at 10:18 am

@Mark Silverman:

And you think you can change this perceived "overall pretentiousness of some PA diners" [sic] by whining about it like a cranky baby in some food blog's comment system? Really?

Look, there is pretentiousness everywhere, about everything on this planet: cars, hotels, flowers, music, paintings, architecture, clothes, wooden combs, kitchen appliances, writing utensils, paper, luggage, jewelry, whatever.

There are pretentious sushi eaters in Tokyo. There are pretentious taco eaters in Morelia. There are pretentious sausage eaters in Munich. SO WHAT?

Sure, there are some pretentious PA diners. There are some in Nashville, St. Louis, and Boston as well. Do you really think that Palo Alto is all that different from anywhere else and that it should rid itself of pretension?

And who should be the judge of that threshold between caring and being pretentious? You?

Gee, I'd say that it's pretentious of you to think that you have superior judgment and taste to determine that and to feel that you should liberate the city from all pretentiousness.

Good luck with that.

Posted by Pure smackdown, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Aug 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm

@Reader, you can drop the mic now. Mark...yah, you just lost.

Posted by Eater, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 8, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Sample of related comments on recent past restaurant blog posts of this series:

Posted by StClaireGardenGuy, Jun 1, 2017, 9:26 pm: ". . .skyhigh priced pretentious restaurants!"

Posted by R. Winslow, Jul 5, 2017, 2:43 pm: "just another new . . . PA restaurant with the usual pretentions."

Posted by R. Winslow, Jul 11, 2017, 11:54 am: "Why has dining in PA become such a pretentious experience?"

I gather that commenters of this type write "pretentious" by reflex, as a favorite dismissive characterization. Certainly none of those comments that I've read has ever bothered to so much as assert (let alone persuasively demonstrate) what on earth they imagine is being pretended and not delivered.

Repeated offhand claims of this kind bespeak people using the word carelessly, but in no event substantiating it. Such that the only pretension really evident has be in the eyes of its beholders.

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