James Syhabout, Oakland’s only Michelin-starred chef, has a personal and culinary journey that began as a young immigrant boy. He immigrated with his family from Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand to Oakland, California when he was only two years old. His father was from China and his mother from Thailand. From an early age, James was surrounded by both Thai and Chinese cooking, and he quickly learned to absorb the techniques, flavors, and memories that have influenced his culinary work today.
When James opened Commis** in Oakland in 2009, he received the coveted Michelin star less than four months after opening. With his global culinary experience, he knew he could have opened a restaurant anywhere. Yet, for him, Commis, was in a sense, a coming home – a place that not only reflected his culinary experience, but also his personal journey as an immigrant.
James brings his passion, heritage, and experience into his cooking, which shows through his many accolades and awards. James opened the popular Coi* with Daniel Patterson because of his passion for true garden-to-restaurant philosophy. He also served as Executive Chef at Plumpjack Café where he propelled the restaurant to become one of San Francisco’s top restaurants, and where he earned a raving three and half star review from Food Critic Michael Bauer in the San Francisco Chronicle. He was also recognized as a Rising Star Chef by San Francisco Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle and StarChefs.Com. In 2010, Food and Wine Magazine inducted James as one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America.
In addition to his culinary experience in the Bay Area, he has gained experience in California and throughout the world, including Manresa*** in Los Gatos, California; The Fat Duck*** in Bray, Berkshire, England; Mugaritz** in Gipuzkoa, Spain; Alkimia* in Barcelona, Spain; and El Bulli*** in Roses, Spain.
He’s not only the chef and owner of Commis, he is also the chef and owner of Hawker Fare, and the proprietor of other establishments including Old Kan in West Oakland.
James will be expanding Commis with a bar and lounge that has a more casual component called CDP. He will also release his first published cookbook with Anthony Bourdain where he will share his story on Lao cookery and his personal journey from inner city immigrant to Michelin-starred chef.
He is married to Stacy Ly, a classmate from Oakland Technical High School, and is also a father of two young children.
*One Michelin Star | **Two Michelin Star | ***Three Michelin Star