Whipper Snapper has been serving up delicious California-Caribbean cuisine that blends Latin American flavors with local farm fresh ingredients since 2008. Patch sat down with Bill Higgins and asked him to spill the beans.
Patch: Where are you from and what brought you to San Rafael?
Bill Higgins: I’m originally from upstate New York. I came to San Francisco when I was 21, then moved down to Los Angeles. After working in several restaurants in the area, I moved to Orlando, Fla., where my wife and I started a family. We returned to California about 20 years ago, and after a stint in wine-country we settled in Fairfax. I was looking to open up my own venture and was looking at Marin cities I liked, and I liked San Rafael. This space became available so I jumped on it.
P: What was the deciding factor to open a space in San Rafael and what were some of the challenges you faced?
BH: The space had everything I wanted – an open kitchen, back patio, nice bar. I wanted it to be a part of a neighborhood. Part of the West End. I get a lot of support from Sun Valley residents. The central location is great too. I get patrons from Novato, San Anselmo and San Rafael. The main challenge you face in the West End village, however, is that there is not a lot of walking traffic. You become almost a sort of destination restaurant.
P: What did you do before opening Whipper Snapper?
BH: I was executive chef of both and part-owner of the mission street location of Cha, Cha, Cha’s in San Francisco for 14 years but I started off in a family restaurant business at the age of 13. I worked in all sorts of jobs, from washing dishes to prep cook. The family had a diner, a steakhouse and a gourmet restaurant. So I worked three different shops. It was definitely on-the-job training.
P: What makes Whipper Snapper unique?
BH: As the chef/owner, I’m highly in the food end of this restaurant and every plate coming out of the kitchen. A lot of the meals people eat at Whipper Snapper are prepped and prepared by me. Most nights, I’m on the line. When you come here, I’m actually cooking your food. I think that’s pretty unique. We also use a lot of organic ingredients. Around 85 percent of our produce is organic. I’ve enjoyed a 20 year business relationship with Full Belly Farms, a great organic farm out of Capay, Calif.
P: What’s the best part about being a business in San Rafael?
BH: I have to go back to the central location of Whipper Snapper. Just being able to reach all different Marin towns – Corte Madera, Novato – is nice. We have a diverse crowd and although our regular clientele is in their 30s or older, we still have a nice mix of customers.
P: What is the most popular menu item at Whipper Snapper and why?
BH: Surprisingly, it’s the fish tacos. We sell more fish tacos than anything. Why? It’s kind of a comfort food for people, in a way. It’s something fun to eat, there’s a lot going on. The fish is marinated, there is cabbage salad on top with the habanero aioli. They just fly out of here.
See how Bill makes his delicious fish tacos.
P: Describe your version of a perfect meal.
BH: Well, a perfect meal to me, of course, would include high-quality food, but who I would be sharing it with is more important. Service is important to me, as is a relaxed atmosphere. The company, the food quality, all these aspects come together.
P: What’s on your iPod?
BH: Tom Petty, John Hyatt, Bob Marley, Patty Smith.Have you been to Whipper Snapper? Rate them in our directory.
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