Cookbook Profile

Cook, Eat, Cha Cha Cha

By Philip Bellber
Photographs by Ian Reeves

Cook, Eat, Cha Cha Cha

You can have your Thai food, Vietnamese food, and all the best Italian, French, or Chinese food, but you haven't had good, authentic Cuban, Puerto Rican, or Caribbean food until you've eaten at Cha Cha Cha.

Nestled in the heart of San Francisco's famous Haight-Ashbury district is the delightfully high-spirited restaurant, Cha Cha Cha. So popular that customers don't mind waiting up to two hours to get in, Cha Cha Cha is bursting with energy and attitude. With festive music and vivid decor, including shrines to Santeria gods (a New Worlds blend of Catholicism and the ancient Yoruban religion), Cha Cha Cha offers an outrageous atmosphere and great food based on authentic recipes from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. The same energy and essence of the restaurant infuses owner Philip Bellber's enchanting new cookbook, Cook, Eat, Cha Cha Cha.

From the simplicity of Fried Plantains (a snap to make) to an authentic Jerk Chicken to Snapper in Banana Leaves, the recipes in Cook, Eat, Cha Cha Cha are terrific, full-flavored, and expertly translated from the professional restaurant kitchen to that of the home cook.

Some recipes, like the Grilled Chicken Pillard with Dijon Mustard Sauce, are so simple they're complete in minutes and perfect for working parents. Skillet Cajun Shrimp is heavenly and the Chicken Mole Chalupa is lip-smacking delicious.

For Bellber, serving his customers and making them happy is of paramount importance, and it shows, from the delightful decor to the fabulous food and the cheerful attitude. That same spirit prevails throughout this brilliantly colorful book, filled with decadent photographs of the food, the ingredients, and the Santeria altars.

Philip Bellber, Isabel & Leon Pak

Born and reared in New York City's Bronx and Spanish Harlem, Philip Bellber is a first-generation American whose Puerto Rican family raised him on red beans and rice, teaching him early a love of spicy food. He traveled and lived extensively in Europe, Mexico, and Central America and opened one of San Francisco's first punk bars, Nightbreak. For over a dozen years, Cha Cha Cha has been receiving reviews and accolades from the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, Vogue, Glamour, Gourmet, Sunset, Seventeen, Hemispheres, and Rolling Stone, and is included in more guidebooks than you can shake a chile at. Bellber, and his business partner, Leon Pak, are energetically involved in various other restaurant businesses in San Francisco. Bellber is married has three children, and lives in San Francisco. This is his first book.

Ian Reeves is a former hard rock miner, glue factory worker, chicken farmer, and floor mechanic. This is his first cookbook.


Cook, Eat, Cha Cha Cha
By Philip Bellber
Photographs by Ian Reeves
Chronicle Books
144 pages
Full-color photographs and illustrations throughout
Paperback, $17.95
ISBN 0-8118-1146-8
Information provided by the publisher.


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This page modified September 2007