Turning the Tables
Despite humble beginnings, young Localis earns impressive accolades.
WRITTEN BY Jordan Venema
PHOTOS BY Debbie Cunningham
Chef/owner of Localis, Chris Barnum-Dann, mixes up the sauce for his Granny’s Fideo pasta dish, which contains tomato, olive oil and cumin.
I n July, the popular website Eater.com published 38 Essential Restaurants of California, profiling the “most important and defining restaurants right this minute,” which included everything from a neighborhood taqueria to Michelin-three-star restaurants. Oh, and there’s also a three-year-young restaurant located on S and 21 streets in Sacramento, the first venture of owner and chef Chris Barnum-Dann.
That Eater calls Localis the crown jewel of Sacramento’s farm-to-fork movement isn’t surprising since the concept is essentially written in the restaurant’s name. But as a movement, at least for Barnum-Dann, farm to fork is just how cooking should be. Growing up in Forestville on a less-than-one-acre property, Barnum-Dann marked the changing seasons by homegrown vegetables and fruit.
Growing up in Louisiana Cold smoked mussel, chicken andouille crepinette, blackened prawn, dirty rice, fried okra, pickled peppers.
“So farm-to-fork, seasonal cooking was natural for me,” Barnum-Dann explains. “I had no idea it was a thing.”Black sheep While farm-to-fork cooking is essential to Localis, its name also is a tribute to more than just food. “It goes beyond the food and into support of the community,” he says. “What about paper goods, coffee, tea? Scott-Naake is a local paper company, so we buy from them, even though it’s more expensive than Sysco, but I like to support this city because I’m so into it.”Which is why it’s surprising to hear Barnum-Dann describe Localis as a black sheep inSacramento, at least to the restaurant community. “I also came into Sacramento completely unknown,” he admits. In fact, Barnum-Dann never thought he’d become a chef, and were it not for what he calls a personally defining moment, he may not have come to Sacramento at all. “We were in Vegas at the end of a six-week tour,” he says, explaining that from ages 18 to 25, he toured regularly as the drummer of a band. “We woke up, and it was 100 degrees in this nasty tour bus; [we’re] drenched in sweat, can’t breathe.”He and the guitarist began arguing, he adds, “then we pulled over and started throwing blows in the middle of the desert.”
Chef Barnum-Dann greets guests from behind the chef’s counter
And that, he says, was it. “I got home and my wife was done,” he recalls. “She started crying and I started crying, and we both were saying, ‘I don’t know if I can do this anymore.’”Later that night, a commercial for the The Art Institute of California — Sacramento’s culinary program — came on television, and Barnum-Dann knew immediately: “That’s what I want to do,” he says. Within the week he applied, was accepted, and started classes. On the first day of classes he also walked into Auburn’s Hapa Sushi, and though he had no experience, was hired on the spot. By the end of his first night, he was left alone in the kitchen. “And I didn’t fuck anything up too bad,” he says with a laugh. “I was all in. I was sold on cooking.”
Farm to family
2031 S St., Sacramento • 916-737-7699
5 – 9 p.m. Tues. – Thurs.,
5 – 10 p.m. Fri. – Sat.
Local Hour 4 – 6 p.m. Tues. – Fri.