Passionate and committed to a standard of excellence in hospitality, service and exceptional food, chef-owner Randall Selland is the visionary leader and ambassador of The Kitchen.
Selland is active in the day-to-day aspects of The Kitchen and tastes every dish before it appears on a menu. He has a passion for menu development and a unique skill for taking an obscure ingredient or cooking technique and making it appeal to all guests. Selland strives to create a balance between adventure and comfort. He loves for guests to try new ingredients or dishes that they would never otherwise have tried. Though creativity and inventiveness are certainly qualities of The Kitchen, Selland does not innovate just for the sake of it. He wants every guest to genuinely enjoy each meal, and always seeks to please his guests and ensure they have a unique and memorable experience.
Selland is also very passionate about his personal relationships with all of the local farmers that supply The Kitchen’s ingredients. His day-to-day role includes visiting local farms and farmers’ markets to source fresh produce and the finest available local ingredients.
Selland is considered the father of the region’s farm-to-fork movement and has been at its helm since the start of his career. Selland has also been successful in lobbying local and state legislators on the benefits of locally grown organic food and sustainability. In 2008, he received an award from the non-profit Pesticide Watch for being instrumental in overturning the law that made it illegal for restaurants to shop farmers’ markets in California. In 2015, Selland received the Clean Air Award from Breathe California for the zero-waste pilot program at his restaurants. Selland also ensures that The Kitchen maintains a philanthropic side. He is an advocate and supporter of food literacy for children and sustainability in the restaurant industry.
Though Selland’s immense talents for menu development, cooking, and hospitality are evident to everyone that knows him, he counts working with his family as his most notable achievement. He is incredibly grateful to work hand in hand with his son, Josh Nelson, who manages the business side of the restaurant, his daughter, Tamera Baker, who manages the brand and design aspects of the restaurant, and especially his wife, Nancy Zimmer, who has worked alongside him and given him guidance every step of the way. He couldn’t be more proud that The Kitchen is a family affair.
Chef-owner Nancy Zimmer is the indisputable matriarch of The Kitchen. As a founder of the restaurant, Zimmer is a quiet but powerful force in the family, constantly driving the quality of the guest experience that anchors the business’s identity. Her day-to-day responsibilities range from working on menu development alongside husband and chef-owner Randall Selland to strategy and vision across all aspects of the restaurant group. Most notably, Zimmer acts as the glue for the family-run operation, ensuring The Kitchen reflects the hospitality focus that is the foundation for any visit.
Zimmer has always been a talented chef and entertainer, not to mention a hardworking mother driven by providing a nurturing environment for her children. When she started The Kitchen Catering Company with daughter and co-founder Tamera Baker, both continued to work day jobs while simultaneously building the business into a successful, self-supporting entity.
A conscientious chef, Zimmer maintains an awareness of food sourcing and product quality that is reflected on the menus at The Kitchen. Zimmer is committed to knowing where her food comes from and has raised a family of like-minded eaters—a trait she hopes to pass on to guests at The Kitchen by educating them on the extensive relationships the restaurant maintains with local farms.
The Kitchen is the ultimate extension of her home-cooked meals, which are served with the utmost attention to what is good for you while still being simply delicious and nurturing. Zimmer’s commitment to providing a comfortable and caring dining environment has always been the keystone of The Kitchen experience.
While Zimmer has always been more a woman of action than talk, rarely acknowledging her contributions to the family business, her children widely agree that she is truly the muscle behind the operation. For her, the ultimate success is watching her family grow the business while maintaining their closeness and loyalty to one another.
As co-founder of The Kitchen and chief executive officer of Selland Family Restaurants, Josh Nelson works very closely with the entire staff. Nelson leads the strategy for all four of the group’s concepts, and has a hand in nearly all aspects of the business, from marketing, branding and business development to operations, guest services, vendor relationships and local philanthropy. He is also responsible for leading the financial goals of the company and overseeing all organizational and budgetary functions. Nelson’s various roles at The Kitchen have had him working directly with everyone from bussers and dishwashers to executive chefs on a daily basis.
Nelson began working in The Kitchen at age 18, first in catering preparations and then as a server at the demonstration dinners alongside his sister, Tamera Baker, while their parents, Randall Selland and Nancy Zimmer, cooked. Throughout college, Nelson worked almost every possible job at the restaurant, including dishwashing, serving, accounting, and back of house. “Our family is in the restaurant business, but we’re really a family business, making it more of a lifestyle,” says Nelson. “When it’s part of how you live, it becomes less of a job and more of a passion.”
In 1998, Nelson saw the opportunity to launch an in-depth wine program at The Kitchen. As wine steward, he made the forward-thinking decision to quit working with distributors and start sourcing directly, bringing highly allocated, boutique California wines to the restaurant—little known bottles that had never before been seen in Sacramento’s dining scene.
Today, The Kitchen is one of the most popular and respected restaurants in Sacramento, with reservations required months in advance. “We love that dining with us is a big night out, a special event for people,” he says. “We’ve created a choreographed yet organic experience that allows our guests to enjoy themselves and do very little decision making. It’s our job to provide great food and exceptional service in an environment that’s enjoyable and an all-around good time.”
Outside of his many roles in the restaurants, Nelson is considered an influential member of the local community and believes in mentoring and consulting the younger generation of restaurateurs. He spearheaded the launch of Sacramento’s flagship farm-to-fork month-long event in September 2013, developing it as a community program to shine a spotlight on the region. He explains, “There’s so much inherent good that comes out of it: helping farmers, the hospitality industry, and the city overall. I’d like to see farm-to-fork expand and grow into something much larger. My ultimate goal is to make Sacramento a think tank for food policy and agricultural legislation.”
As co-founder of The Kitchen and chief brand officer of Selland Family Restaurants, Tamera Baker oversees and directs the brand strategy of all four of the group’s concepts. Baker ensures the brand is infused in all aspects of The Kitchen, from marketing and advertising to staff training and most importantly the guest experience. Baker also manages all aspects of the design and development of their five restaurants, from architectural and interior design to flatware and uniform selection to collateral material and packaging. Baker’s talent for interior design, along with her eye for visual cues and stylish product choices, ensures a tailored but approachable atmosphere in all four concepts.
As the daughter of chef-owners Randall Selland and Nancy Zimmer, Baker knew from a young age that she wanted hospitality and entertaining to be a major part of her life. “I loved to play ‘party planning’ as a child, and I would talk to fake clients on the phone and plan their events,” says Baker. Years later, her childhood dreams led to her first professional role in the hospitality industry with The Kitchen Catering Company, which she founded with her mother.
Baker later forged new territory in the world of one-off demonstration dinners with The Kitchen, which she opened alongside her mother, Nancy Zimmer, father, Randall Selland, and brother, Josh Nelson. As the first concept for Selland Family Restaurants, The Kitchen allowed Baker to bring her planning and entertaining skills to the table while learning the skills needed to run a restaurant, which meant working as a prep cook by day and server by night. As the restaurant’s success grew, so did Baker’s integral role, and she progressed from serving and managing to writing catering menus, planning interior design, and shaping the overall atmosphere.
At The Kitchen, the communal experience is all about the food and the show—everyone sits down at once and eats together. “It’s about fun,” she says. “We get to be creative and give guests a place to be introduced to new things in a way that’s comfortable and not intimidating.” Baker wants her guests to feel like they’ve walked into a friend’s home when they dine at the restaurant, and she strives for a warm, inviting, and lively place—what she believes to be at the core of The Kitchen experience.
Born and raised in Sacramento, Baker feels fortunate to live in a supportive community that offers some of the best produce in the country. “We want to provide our guests the best product,” Baker says, “and we’re lucky that often it is found in our own backyard.”