David Zobray, Executive Chef | Old Bus Tavern
Prior to accepting the post as executive chef of Old Bus Tavern in San Francisco, David Zobray’s culinary career path wound from Smoky Bones BBQ in an Atlanta suburb, through the U.S. Army, to some of the most venerable restaurants in the American South.
David spent four years in the U.S. Army. He was deployed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Knox, Tennessee; he also served a tour in Iraq. When he was in the reserves, he found a job as a line cook at Atlanta’s grand dame restaurant Rathbun’s, where he spent over two years building a culinary foundation in a restaurant with an intense kitchen culture run on extreme discipline and unflinching attention to detail.
During the time he worked at Rathbun’s, Southern food was gaining prominence as a respected culinary genre; this was the era when Southern chefs began to fuse refined techniques and a modern cooking approach with time-honored traditions and authentic Southern food culture. “New Southern cuisine” was center stage in the national food scene.
Following his culinary initiation at Rathbun’s, David landed a role at Restaurant Eugene working under the tutelage of highly respected chef/restaurateur Lenton Hopkins, who taught him the concept of “farm to table,” the importance of creating strong relationships with suppliers, and the advantages of understanding agricultural economy — values he continues to embody in his own approach as a chef. David served as sous chef for nearly three years at Restaurant Eugene before joining the team at Bacchanalia, one of Atlanta’s most established and well-regarded restaurants. Simultaneously, David got involved in the charcuterie program at Empire State South, where he worked with chef Joshua Hopkins to produce some of the south’s finest meats. Butchery runs in David’s blood; his passion was initially inspired his grandfather, who was a butcher. David has fond memories of going hunting as a young boy with his grandpa, who made sure David understood the importance of respecting animals from nose to tail.
Zboray moved to San Francisco because he was inspired by the city’s culinary scene, and craved the west coast lifestyle that encompasses the great outdoors in addition to time in the kitchen. He staged at Quince, Rich Table, and Atelier Crenn before he found a home in Mourad Lahlou’s kitchen at Mourad, which he felt drawn to due to the parallels between Middle Eastern cooking and Southern style: long braises, spice blends. At Mourad, he worked on butchery and menu development (he helped initiate the restaurant’s highly successful family-style entrees). Ready for his next challenge and the opportunity to run his own kitchen, David landed the role of executive chef at Old Bus Tavern (fall 2016), which attracted him with its easygoing vibe, and the restaurant’s balance of fine dining level culinary standards applied to humble food that appeals to everyone.