The Harvest Market on Bonanza Street has re-imagined itself all the way to a reopening.
Owner Damian de la Rosa describes the philosophy this way: "Natural … local … organic: If it doesn't have one of those things, it can't be in this restaurant."
The location is a few doors down from McCovey's Restaurant, where de la Rosa used to be the manager. De la Rosa originally opened the Harvest Market in 2010 with a self-serve salad bar, deli counter and espresso bar, selling some local produce, open five days a week. "But," said de la Rosa, "I wanted to do more."
Harvest Market closed and underwent a longer-than-anticipated renovation to install a hood and grill. The market opened again in April as a sit-down lunch and dinner haven, with a license for beer and wine, open seven days a week. The same natural and local concept remained. April was a quiet opening, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony didn't come until last week.
After he cut the ribbon, Mayor Bob Simmons called de la Rosa and invited him to be Walnut Creek's chef for the fourth annual mayors healthy cookoff.
"We have many very good restaurants in our city, but highlighting a place to eat that serves good food that is also gluten-free is important," said Simmons.
The mayors healthy cookoff, pairing chefs and mayors, is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23, at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. It came four years ago from the vision of Cindy Gershen, owner and chef of Sunrise Bistro on Botelho Drive.
De la Rosa went to grade school in Danville, junior high in Concord and high school in Antioch. His love of cuisine began early as he watched his father run three restaurants in the Mission District in San Francisco. De la Rosa studied art in college. He worked for awhile at Lincoln Park golf course in San Francisco, and wound up buying the restaurant there.
Then he worked as a restaurant manager for McCovey's in Walnut Creek and the ownership of Jeff and Rick Dudum. De la Rosa became something of an opening day pitcher for the Dudum ownership, managing the launches of 14 restaurants in Walnut Creek, Southern California and Texas.
Piece of paper
Another philosophy he imparts to the Harvest staff is flexibility. The menu is just a piece of paper, de la Rosa said — the chef may swap out ingredients and substitute flavors as requested by patrons.
Some dishes are healthy twists on old standbys: maybe your young macaroni eater will go for gluten-free mac & cheese made from quinoa and goat milk. There's also grilled salmon, spaghetti with turkey meatballs, tri-tip and organic chicken.
“Damian de la Rosa, owner of Harvest Market, had a rough time starting his business, as many new businesses face, but once it was up and running, his healthy food options gained wide popularity and is now launching a new menu with new dinner options,” stated Eric Maldonado, President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Contra Costa County, in a press release.
De la Rosa said another Harvest philosophy is: "There's no excuse to eat food that is bad for you."