Chef Brett Shaw was born and raised in St Louis, Missouri. Personally and professionally, he is motivated by food, always searching for the next great bite. He’s on a mission to try every soup dumpling in the Bay Area. From an early age, storytelling was a joy for Brett. The majority of Shaw’s childhood was spent outdoors. An appreciation and responsibility towards nature conservation had always been ingrained within him. He’s grateful for the overlap of values in action when being a responsible chef means making choices with the menu that don’t negatively impact our environment. On his days off, he explores new places. Whether on a hike or seeking a snack, he’s always down to discover something unexpected.
Shaw sees an opportunity to raise the status of a career in hospitality from a larger societal perspective. Working in restaurants can be one of the best jobs around. It’s invigorating, and there’s loads of opportunity for growth. The skills learned apply to many fields, but due to history, circumstances, and perceived lack of esteem, the work is often seen as merely a stepping stone. Brett believes in creating a model that can show others they will feel validated and become an exemplary member of the community through a career in hospitality. Chef Brett regards restaurants as having the potential to become bastions of hope for their communities. The days of being politically neutral are over. Restaurants have the power to deliver more than just escapism; they are better as carriers of stories and energy, a conduit of values, a place for connections.
The proudest moment in Brett’s career came when he discovered the confluence of craft and community work. During the Covid quarantine, he and his wife, Aimee Arcilla, developed a Filipino pop-up called Hunnybee. The events of 2020 galvanized their decision to pivot their business to a donation-based effort. To start, they raised money for The NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Quickly they gained speed raising money for other racial justice organizations such as; Planting Justice, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the SFBA, Larkin Street Youth, and The Trevor Project, to name a few. From that point, everything changed. New energy carried them. He felt proud they could create a convergence of their skills and the social causes they cared deeply about. The decision to give back and engage with their community was a game-changer.
Shaw greatly admires Ann Bognar of Nippon Tei in St. Louis. She was his first mentor. On a more personal level, she was like a second mother to him and all the other misfit kids in town. Ann’s ability to lead a team with such poise, grace, and strength has always been a point of inspiration for Brett. Being an immigrant and a mother, Chef Ann successfully opened a superb restaurant that has served their community for over fifteen years.
If Brett could have dinner with anyone past or present, he’d choose a songwriter like Joe Strummer. To understand how good storytellers can tap into some sort of buried layer of the subconscious.
Brett’s favorite quote is, “The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.”