They say that being a chef is a calling, and it surely was for Aaron Chamberlin, who knew he wanted to be in the restaurant business well before he hit high school. His chef grandfather was a major influence, as were the Boy Scouts, where Chamberlin became fascinated with cooking over an open fire. He still is, as his wood-burning oven at St. Francis so deliciously attests, turning out everything from bread and meat to veggies and dessert.
It wasn't just the food and the fire Chamberlin loved but also the fast-paced restaurant environment -- not to mention the fact that if he lost one job, he could easily get another down the street. After graduating high school in Mesa, he rambled around a bit, as young men are wont to do, working at restaurants in Maryland, Utah and New Mexico (under Southwestern Cuisine giant John Sedlar) before deciding he should get serious and go to culinary school. He was working for Michel Richard at Bistro M at the time, but Richard and Sedlar talked him out of culinary school, telling him it would be a waste of his time and money.
"I put myself in their hands; they were like gods to me," he says, admitting that he ran their personal errands and worked for free, just to soak up everything he could from them. Richard sent Chamberlin to New York to work for Daniel Boulud, which didn't turn out so well, but Chamberlin stayed on in New York, working stages at a string of the city's hottest fine-dining restaurants. Chamberlin's next gig was at the Ritz Carlton in Boston, where he says he was allowed to "move about the cabin" without getting pigeonholed. He worked in pastry, the butcher shop, the fine dining restaurant and the casual one before moving back to San Francisco to work at Rubicon (under Traci Des Jardins) and later Boulevard (under Nancy Oakes).