Spike of Plāyt & Picán
Chef Spike cooks under the broad category of “Southern Food”, but his unique take on classic dishes makes it hard to pin down his actual culinary origin. Spike's cooking is composed of generations-old family techniques & flavors that have been marked by the influence of time spent living and cooking all over the US, and his food is emblematic of this; it simultaneously makes you feel the comfort of a home-cooked meal and the excitement of exploring new culinary territory.⠀
Spike has zig-zagged his way across the country for the last 35 years, from Brooklyn to Seattle, to Florida, Palm Springs, to the Philippines, to San Francisco, and finally to Oakland. Here he eventually connected with Michael, the owner of the hugely popular Picán Restaurant, and joined the team as Chef, bringing the many flavors and experiences he picked up along the way to the table.
Picán and the food Spike cooked there was an Oakland staple. It was a place where local families celebrated special occasions while Warriors were being signed at the next table. It was a restaurant near & dear to my heart, and when it had to close to do rent hikes, I was relieved to see the team open a new iteration of Picán in Hayward called Playt. Playt is where Spike’s food currently shines, and it still feels like the same valuable community space that Picán was but with a new energy. Don’t be intimidated by the (short) distance - Spike's multifaceted & flavor-packed dishes are well worth the drive.
BAYDISH: What was your relationship to cooking growing up?
SPIKE: From a young age I started helping my grandmother with dinner. She taught me a lot of her secrets in giving flavor to food. She taught me how to make a meal and stretch it for the whole family. She taught me how to make gumbo, how to fry chicken, how to make cornbread. The techniques she showed me were from her mother and grandmother.
BAYDISH: When did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
SPIKE: When I was in junior high school. I was already trying different recipes from my copy of Betty Crocker and decided to continue learning more. I started as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Brooklyn, but then moved up to prep and onto the line. I worked at my first upscale restaurant in New York after that, and from there I worked at restaurants with Michelin Star chefs.
BAYDISH: What are you most proud of?
SPIKE: That I am going to be 51 in a few days and have achieved much of what I set out to do in this business.
BAYDISH: What can we expect next from you and Playt?
SPIKE: The expansion of Playt and our culture to the masses.