The Pop-Up Redefining Brunch in San Francisco
Meet the chefs behind Hilda and Jesse.
August 21, 2019 ● 3 min read
By Richie Nakano
Brunch can be a divisive topic. On the one hand, there is the bottomless mimosa set, characterized by “But First, Brunch” shirts, orders of warm cinnamon buns and maple syrup-lacquered bacon for the table, and group sing-alongs to the restaurant's Sunday soundtrack of all Lizzo all the time. On the other hand, are the never brunchers: folks that refuse to wait for 90 minutes to eat a plate of eggs while getting day drunk for the second day in a row.
But hey, brunch kind of rules once you strip away all of its basic bro and Becky tendencies—the ability to choose between eggs and bacon or a burger and fries is rarely a choice presented to us outside of a greasy spoon. Maybe it is for that very reason that brunch is not very well represented in the pop-up world. Chefs Rachel Sillcocks (Cyrus, Nopa, Range) and Kristina Compton (Avery, Mosu, Atelier Crenn) want to change all that. With their pop-up, Hilda and Jesse, the pair wants to turn the brunch world on its head with a menu that draws on their collective experience and range, from chilled omelets with smoked avocado to brisket hash with fermented green garlic. We caught up with them to discover the whats and the whys of an all brunch pop up.
ChefsFeed: So I guess my first question is why Latvian food and why brunch?
Rachel: So I think the Latvian thing has been a little skewed. When we first started we were doing some Latvian food and it got blown up a little more than we intended. The premise of the concept is breakfast and brunch, with the idea being that we would do breakfast during the week and an elevated brunch on the weekends. We feel like there is a lot of room for exploration and growth within brunch. Kristina is of Latvian descent, and there are pieces of that culture that we wanted to draw inspiration from, but we are not only about Eastern European flavors.
ChefsFeed: Particularly on a weekday it can be difficult to find a place that serves breakfast. Did that influence your concept at all? Or do you just love cooking that meal?
Kristina: Both of us have always cooked dinner service, and it feels really limited. I really like eating breakfast and brunch, and Rachel really helped me come to enjoy it when we were working together. I just think there’s a lot more room to tap into creativity with that meal, and that's the real reason.
ChefsFeed: What are you really excited about with Hilda and Jesse?
Rachel: I don't think that it’s one dish or one technique that we’re doing, but I think the overall way that we’re thinking about brunch food is something that we want to get out there. I think people associate brunch with pancakes and waffles and eggs benedict, and that's not what we’re doing.
Kristina: Some people are confused, wondering why the food is so elevated for this concept. But why can't it be artful and delicious at the same time? We want it to be really artistic, really thoughtful, but also extremely approachable, and above all, delicious. Sometimes we run into people not fully understanding the concept until they come to the pop-up and see it themselves because it is really different.
ChefsFeed: Are there any restaurants that you have drawn inspiration from for Hilda and Jesse?
Rachel: Sqirl in LA and Maurice in Portland are both places that have taken a very typical meal and blown the lid off of what was previously thought of as breakfast or lunch or brunch. Those were jumping off points for us. But I think that what we are doing is completely our own.
Tickets to Hilda and Jesse's next pop-ups on September 2 and 16 are available now, click to reserve.