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Game Changer

Rodney Worth of The Peasant & The Pear stands on the patio outside his Danville restaurant and figures he’s in just about the perfect place for a chef to be. “I can get great tomatoes in Pleasanton and the best peaches in the world right there in Brentwood,” he says. “I can go to Point Reyes and get the best bleu cheese and crab, and I have a fishmonger who can bring me California or Alaska halibut—that’s the food they’re serving at the White House.”

Worth capitalizes on this proximity to the absolute best and freshest produce on the globe, having expanded beyond his flagship restaurant on Hartz Avenue to owning and operating six Bay Area eateries, including three spots—Ferrari’s Cucina Italiana, The Little Pear and The Prickly Pear Cantina—in Danville’s Blackhawk Plaza. In doing so, Worth has helped elevate Tri-Valley dining, transforming it into the more relaxed cousin of the sometimes overly precious San Francisco foodie scene.

“I call it farmers market food,” Worth says of his culinary aesthetic. “It’s California soul food. I definitely like French and Italian techniques and sauces, but the freshness of being in California, where you can change the menu nightly, means I can be creative and think abstractly.”

Worth got his start at Livermore’s The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards and later cooked at the high-end Bizou in San Francisco. He aspires to blend the derring-do of big-city joints with the simplicity of Mediterranean comfort food, a concept that has helped spur a local culinary awakening, especially in Danville.

“Things are definitely changing,” Worth says of the Tri-Valley food scene. “People are trying new things.”

But the region still maintains its down-home taste: “In San Francisco, you have a lot more of the foie gras and caviar. People here want that wine country experience: a glass of wine and a pork chop with a great sauce.”

So far, these methods have borne fruit: The Peasant & The Pear was named Diablo magazine’s 2006 Best New Restaurant, and Worth has won the magazine’s Best Chef award five times.

“I’ve been successful with the Pear in pushing limits,” he says. “We make our own burrata, and people really like that, so we push it. But we’re also simple. Sometimes you don’t need to use a lot of ingredients. Just lamb and salt and pepper can be great.”