Pearson & Co, a la Chef Josef

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

After 40 years in the kitchen, Josef Keller just can’t take retirement seriously.

Keller closed Josef’s at the La Rose Hotel in April 2010 after decades of running Santa Rosa restaurants. Six months later, the 58-year-old was revamping the menus of the county’s largest meal-provider, Meals on Wheels. After a brief retirement, he’s back in the kitchens again.

Perhaps his biggest project to date: Taking over Pearson & Company’s four locations. The popular Sonoma County cafe and catering biz formerly owned by Mike and Kendra McCoy operates cafe outposts of their central Fourth St. kitchen on Mendocino Ave., and at Kaiser Permanente and a private business catering service. The Fourth St. location has also expanded into the former McCoy’s kitchen shop.

It’s a mighty task for Keller and his business-partner and wife, Jill Keller-Peters. But standing in the bustling commercial kitchen, it’s apparent that Keller is in his element. Beginning at 4am, the kitchen hums to life to fill the deli cases with salads, entrees, desserts and soups. Bringing in his own recipes for dishes like Curried Chicken, Crab Macaroni and Cheese, wild mushroom and tomato soups, Grilled Asparagus with aioli and other seasonal favorites (Swiss Chili, his own signature mashup is also popular) has been top priorities. But Pearson’s favorites like meatloaf, deli sandwiches and Chinese chicken salad also remain on the menu. Desserts have been expanded to include his signature chocolate mousse, white chocolate tapioca pudding, raspberry creme Anglaise and a chocolate caramel Macadamia bar.

Keller’s still in the moving-in stage, but already his touch his evident. The couple are working to stock a specialty food section with Sonoma-made condiments, oils and other goodies. He’ll continue with the catering biz, though says the focus will be on the cafes.

It’s a delicious renewal for the take-out cafes. At a recent sandwich competition featuring 20 local chefs, Keller’s pulled pork sandwich and roasted vegetables were judged award-winning.

And the ever-present Pearson & Co. goose logo? Consider her retired.

Pearson and Co: 2759 Fourth St., Santa Rosa and 2500 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.

Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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  1. I never tried Pearson’s in the past but now that Chef Jo is running things I go all the time. You’ve gott= to try the take out food. UNBELIEVABLE! SOME OF THESE critics have too much time on their hands. Go ther and try your favorite and you will be amazed. Three thumbs up for me.

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  2. I think they’re still getting the kinks out a bit. My review from yesterday: the reuben (sandwich of the day) was pretty good, but a bit salty (Mac’s does it better), but the sauerkraut on it was pretty darn good. The “eggplant parmesan” was really an eggplant lasagna, and the noodles (I assume bought commercially) were a bit heavy, but cooked right, much of the eggplant was majorly undercooked, and some bites had way too much oregano. The best bites made me think of a good home-cooked moussaka, but it would have worked better without the eggplant, because it just wasn’t cooked properly. There’s an underlying good recipe there that hasn’t quite come together yet on a reliable basis, or maybe I just a got a so-so batch.

    I think it’s still a work in progress. The staff was very professional.

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  3. Heather? Where are you? You haven’t posted in 5 days. It’s not like you.

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    • I know. Sorry. I’m knee-deep in developing some technical backend stuff to roll out next week.

  4. I love the goose logo. We need to start a new movement to Save the Goose!

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  5. Pearsons runs the cafe at JDSU aka OCLI in SR they do a great job and look forward to the different ideas from the mind of the great Chef Josef Keller !

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  6. I love Pearson’s foccaccia bread. Please do not change the recipe, it is the best! Also, please consider bringing back a goat cheese sandwich – Pearson used to have one with roasted pepper, greens and olive tapenade that was amazing!

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  7. I agree, pearsons was over priced and not so so…..really pretty bad in my opinion. Looking forward to trying the new food.

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  8. I have been a fan of Pearson’s for some time. I am glad to see that some old favorites remain. However, I am disappointed that the portions have become smaller (smaller salad and dressing containers, for example) and the take-out cartons are now #6—non-recyclable.

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  9. We had Pearsons/Josef Keller cater a lunch for us at our office last week and I cannot tell you how fabulous the food was. I was never a fan of Pearsons (over priced and food just so-so) but now that Mr. Keller is at the helm, I can tell you the food was top notch. Everyone go and give Pearsons – under this new ownership – another try. You won’t be sorry! (Okay maybe your waistline will be….)

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