Chef, Cupola Pizzeria
Born in Twentynine Palms in Southern California, Tennison and his family moved quite frequently around California as he grew up, in Santa Cruz, San Jose, Fairfield, Chico, and also in Okinawa, Japan. Tennison’s father was a Marine Corps Sergeant so he spent a lot of time with his mother while growing up, helping her in the kitchen and licking brownie batter off spatulas.
“I love the way food brings people together – from family dinners on a Sunday night, to a BBQ with friends or even watching our communal table at Cupola fill with strangers who can relate to each other by virtue of the fact that they’re sharing a meal,” says Tennison. “As a chef I want to be able to help people make great memories surrounding food.”
In his youth, Tennison worked as a server at Denny’s but never enjoyed being at the front of the house and instead was drawn back to the kitchen. He decided to seek out a professional culinary education and graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 2005. Following graduation, Tennison traveled to Europe and experienced the cuisine and landscape of Italy for the first time. When he returned to the US, Tennison was inspired to join the Italian seafood restaurant Pescheria prior to its opening in San Francisco. The day after being hired as a line cook, Tennison was promoted to sous chef. When owner Joseph Manzare decided to open Joey & Eddie’s, Tennison played a key role in establishing the new restaurant. Next, Tennison joined Market Bar Café as chef de cuisine, where he learned to lead the kitchen of one of the busiest restaurants in the City and experienced a volume of customers he had yet to encounter in his career.
When Tennison saw an ad for the position of opening sous chef of Cupola Pizzeria, he realized it hit on everything he was looking for in a restaurant’s cuisine – fresh, handmade pastas and pizzas using seasonal ingredients and traditional techniques. The more he looked into the position and the company, the more he realized it could be a perfect fit.
“Lark Creek Restaurant Group has such an amazing reputation in the industry and though Cupola Pizzeria was something they had never done before as a company, they had lots of individual experience among their management and were intent on doing it the right way,” explains Tennison.
“Everything from the Stefano Ferrara pizza oven imported from Naples, Italy to securing the restaurant’s certification from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, Cupola has fit exactly what I want to do – make great Italian food.”
He joined the team and was there to christen the oven with its inaugural pizza.
Throughout his career, Tennison has been lucky to travel to Italy a number of times (returning again in October, 2012), and each time he returns, he shares what he’s learned with guests.
Tennison explains, “the menu at Cupola allows for such a versatility and breadth of antipasti, salads, and pastas, not to mention pizzas, there is always an opportunity to evolve and improve our offerings.”
When not at Cupola Pizzeria, Tennison enjoys reading, eating, working in his backyard garden, and catching up on much-needed sleep. He lives in San Francisco’s Richmond District.