As Executive Chef of The Kitchen Restaurant, Kelly McCown oversees the entire food program of the long-standing institution. From menu development and ingredient quality control to the hands on preparation and narration of dinner, McCown’s domain is not only in the kitchen, but also in front of guests, for whom he strives to provide an unforgettable experience.
Upon completion of his culinary training at the California Culinary Academy, McCown honed his craft in some of San Francisco’s finest kitchens, including Michelin stared La Folie and the lauded Fleur de Lys.
Moving to the Pacific Northwest’s foremost restaurants, McCown developed his pastry skills at the Alexis Hotel in Seattle. In 1992, McCown joined trend setting Michelin rated Chef Scott Carsberg, as his sous chef, to open the award winning restaurant Lampreia. The James Beard Foundation’s celebrated Flying Fish followed, where McCown presided as Chef de Cuisine. While there Bon Appetit and Seattle Magazine accorded him “rising star” chef status and The Seattle Times characterized McCown’s cuisine as “richly flavored meals that offer both comfort and complexity”.
Returning to California in 1999, he assumed the post of Executive Sous Chef at Wine Spectator’s Greystone Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America. McCown then followed acclaimed Chef Todd Humphries to work with master restaurateur Pat Kuleto, to open the renowned Napa Valley restaurant, Martini House in St. Helena. As Chef de Cuisine, McCown guided the culinary program to many accolades such as Esquire Magazine’s award for top new restaurants in America, Bon Appetit’s “Best of 2002”, the San Francisco Chronicle’s top five restaurants for new American cuisine and one star from the Michelin Guide.
After his tenure at Martini House, McCown made the move to develop the culinary program for Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estate at the historic Inglenook Chateau in the heart of Napa Valley. McCown’s work at the winery received exceptional reviews and he was the only American Chef invited to Tokyo’s Cirque Culinare in 2008.
In 2009, McCown joined Selland Family Restaurants to helm Ella Dining Room and Bar in downtown Sacramento where he received accolades for his work from The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento Magazine, Food Arts and The New York Times. 2011 saw McCown return to the Napa Valley to open the critically acclaimed Goose&Gander, garnering a Bib Gourmand from Michelin and status of one of the “Top 10 Restaurants in Napa Valley” from Conde Nast Traveler and The New York Times.
With a desire to return to the ever-expanding culinary landscape of the Sacramento region and bringing his culinary experience to one of the area’s most lauded and beloved restaurant, McCown has now led The Kitchen as a recipient of acclaimed accolades including the Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence, Open Table Top 100 Restaurants in America, Yelp Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S., USA Today’s Top 30 Restaurants in America, and the highly prized AAA Five Diamond Award of Excellence.
General Manger Esra Oktar joined The Kitchen Restaurant in Summer of 2017, quickly taking control of the day-to-day operations. Oktar works tirelessly, alongside Executive Chef Kelly McCown, to ensure the highest standard of excellence in service and hospitality – a trademark of the Selland Family’s flagship restaurant.
Growing up in her family-owned restaurant in Cocoa Beach, Florida, placed Oktar on track to her career in hospitality. While in college, Oktar worked closely with renowned restaurateurs, David and Elizabeth Gwynn at the highly lauded Cypress Restaurant in Tallahassee, Florida, furthering her love and aptitude for the service industry.
In 2009, Oktar soon found herself at the Chef Mark Sullivan helmed Michelinstarred Village Pub, just outside of San Francisco. Oktar worked to the position of Assistant Sommelier under Michael Acheson and Beverage director Andrew Green. While assisting in the beverage program, the restaurant received accolades from the San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes, 7×7 Magazine, and the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award.
In 2013, Oktar followed chefs Molly Hawks and Mike Fagnoni from The Village Pub to the highly regarded Hawks in Granite Bay, California, becoming General Manger. While at Hawks, Oktar guided the service to a three-and-a-half-star review from the Sacramento Bee and a top spot on Sacramento Magazine’s ‘Best of Sacramento’ list. Several years later, in 2015, Oktar went on to help launch Hawks Provisions and Public House, garnering critical acclaim including a glowing recommendation from respected restaurant critic Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle.
In the Summer 2017, Oktar landed the coveted position of General Manager at The Kitchen Restaurant. Together with Chef Kelly McCown, the pair have now guided the restaurant to Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence, USA Today’s Top 30 Restaurants in America, and the highly prized AAA Five Diamond Award.
As Assistant General Manager of The Kitchen Restaurant, Eric Philbin works with General Manager Esra Oktar to lead the organization in maintaining the highest hospitality standards, guest services and front-of-house operations, and works closely with the Executive Chef and Beverage Director to ensure a high-standard of excellence in the overall guest experience.
Philbin attended Sacramento State University, studying Computer Science and Business, while working in the restaurant industry. It was then he realized his passion for food and guest services. “I was working under Chef Angelo Auriana at Masque Ristorante, the former executive chef of the esteemed restaurant Valentino in Santa Monica,” says Philbin, “Having truffles for the first time exposed me to a totally different world.” Finding himself enthusiastic in the restaurant environment, helping and interacting with guests, staff, and vendors, Philbin chose to pursue a career in the world of hospitality.
Philbin started at The Kitchen Restaurant in 2006 as a server. In 2012, he was promoted to General Manager, and has now moved into the position of Assistant General Manager in order to spend more time with his family and pursue other hobbies and interests. Over his tenure at The Kitchen, Philbin has worked closely with Chef Owner Randall Selland and CEO/Co-Owner Josh Nelson to embody the restaurant’s core values of unparalleled hospitality and a unique, unexpected dining experience.
Reservationist Bobbie Chamberlain has been a part of the team for over ten years, thoughtfully taking care guests to ensure they have an exceptional experience at The Kitchen Restaurant. She believes assisting guest with their special evening is all in the details, from booking reservations, planning seating arrangements to carefully communicating dietary restrictions to the chef. Chamberlain will always go out of her way to assist guests in securing reservations for their special night at The Kitchen, managing the delicate balance of the waiting list.
Chamberlain has a genuine love for hospitality, meeting new people and building guest relationships is one of the favorite aspects of her role. “Over the years I have come to know many of our regular guests,” Chamberlain says, “they come back for special occasions in their lives such as anniversaries, graduations, birthdays, corporate celebrations and it’s a real honor to be a part of”. She truly enjoys working for the Selland family and being a part of not only the local food community but also the great community at large.