There’s the story—two chefs join forces and enter the local pop-up restaurant scene—and then, as always, the story that led to it, marked by seemingly disparate decisions that end up sharpening the path ahead. For Kristina Compton and Rachel Sillcocks, their paths first crossed in San Francisco in 2014, when then Executive Chef Sillcocks hired Compton as her Sous Chef at much-missed Mission District restaurant, Range.
South Carolina native Compton had gotten her start working in restaurants during high school before landing at FIG in Charleston for what she calls “one of the most formative periods of time.” When a 2010 road trip took her to San Francisco, she ended up staying. For her start, New York native Sillcocks was preparing to go to medical school before studying abroad in France changed everything. “I had been living with a young family that loved eating and entertaining, and being a part of that was really attractive to me,” she says.
Sillcocks studied at what was then the French Culinary Institute and is now the International Culinary Center in Manhattan. In 2002, when Sillcocks was ready to leave for somewhere new, she accepted a line cook position at Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg before becoming Sous Chef at Cyrus. “I was quite taken with wine country and being able to see food grow and the connection with people who were part of the food scene and the grower scene, and having the ability to see it all firsthand,” she reflects on her initial move west.
As their paths wended, both chefs cemented their pedigrees in notable San Francisco kitchens before and after their time at Range, with Compton working as Executive Sous Chef at Atelier Crenn and Chef de Cuisine at Avery, and Sillcocks working as Sous Chef at Nopa and Executive Chef at Piccino, among others. Last fall, they found themselves pondering next steps.
“It came to a head to do something together,” Compton recalls. “We really trust working with each other. Why not do something for brunch? Nobody’s really exploring that meal period and doing anything different with it.” From there came a business plan, logo, and name: Hilda (for Compton’s grandmother) and Jesse (for Rachel’s grandfather).
The name, much like Hilda and Jesse’s “breakfast without boundaries” concept, is meant to lend itself to evolving interpretation. Since last March, Hilda and Jesse has offered a three-course brunch for dinner, consistently every other Monday at Marla Bakery in the Outer Richmond. Compton and Sillcocks are also actively fundraising for a brick-and-mortar space of their own, to hopefully open in the city this year. “The pop-ups have taken off,” Sillcocks says of the appeal of the dining experience overall. “To own and operate a business in San Francisco takes extraordinary capital; a lot of people out of the gates don’t have that. Proof of concept is really important.”
It’s safe to say that Hilda and Jesse, nominated for a 2019 Eater Award for “Pop-up of the Year” in the San Francisco Bay Area, has proven the concept.
If you have the opportunity to experience their brunch for dinner, be sure to add on the Pancake Without Boundaries for what Compton calls a “savory, thought-provoking” dish that unites fresh buttermilk, grilled cranberry maple, and black truffle. “It’s not how you perceive breakfast food,” adds Compton, who for this evolving culinary turn is Chef, while Sillcocks is Director of Operations—in charge of front of house when Hilda and Jesse pops up permanently. “It’s an opportunity for us to step into roles we are both excited about,” Sillcocks says, “and for us to grow professionally and personally.”