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Nathan Britton, left, whose political career included stints as a spokesman for Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), is now working in the culinary arts, preparing a strudel with JB O'Brien Wednesday evening at a private party Sept. 19, 2012, in San Francisco, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Staff)

Most political professionals are in a pre-election frenzy this fall, but one guy who left the game will be in a hot spot of his own: a pop-up restaurant kitchen in his old stomping ground.

Nathan Britton, whose political career included stints as a spokesman for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., graduated Oct. 5 from the Culinary Institute of America. What better way to celebrate than by launching Fortnight, a pop-up restaurant in the Guest Chef space in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood, with fellow CIA grad J.B. O'Brien and their partner, Miguel Mendoza?

Britton says it's "extremely liberating" to think about tasty bites rather than sound bites, as political communications -- not with his former bosses, but in general -- have become "basically premised on bad faith."

"It's about doing something bad -- in this case dividing people up into warring camps and whipping them up into an ideological frenzy of outrage and anger -- to achieve an end that is allegedly good: winning an election, passing a bill and so on," he says.

That may be unavoidable in our current political and media landscape, Britton says, "but at a certain point it was not unavoidable for me personally. Stepping outside of the political world, I don't think it's hard to say that the ends don't justify the means. It's increasingly my belief that the acknowledged bad is doing far more damage than the alleged good."


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Besides long hours and strong personalities, there aren't many similarities between politics and the culinary world, Britton says. In fact, he sees food -- a hobby long before he sought formal training -- as the opposite of politics.

"It's about community, it's about breaking bread together," he says. "Certainly there are lots of elements of the restaurant industry that don't reflect that ideal, but I believe strongly in M.F.K. Fisher's insistence that food should be nourishing not just to the body but the spirit as well."

Lee said she's excited for Britton and wishes him great success. "As in all of this work, I know that his passion, focus and unique talent will be on full display, and I look forward to the chance to try his culinary creations firsthand."

Guest Chef is a fully equipped restaurant and kitchen incubator, seating about 20, in which chefs can schedule two-week runs to showcase their specialty dishes, novel cuisines or experimental takes on classic foods. Fortnight will be there from Tuesday through Nov. 3.

Britton already has logged time in the kitchens at Farmstead in St. Helena, The Herbfarm in Seattle and the Michelin two-starred Cyrus in Healdsburg, which is due to close this fall.

The menu at Fortnight, he says, will highlight seasonal and local foods as "a snapshot of Indian summer." Like any restaurant, the menu is subject to change, but he's envisioning a small-plates format with shaved coppa salad with watercress and truffle vinaigrette; fennel terrine with beets and fall pickles; smoked Sonoma duck breast with farro risotto, pumpkin, and Russian River pinot reduction; seared lamb noisette with corn pudding, Swiss chard and sauce groseilles au raifort; rose geranium panna cotta with hazelnut streusel; and hand-pulled Wine Country strudel with creme anglaise. (Prices are slated to be in the $8-$19 range, in case you were wondering.)

"We envision a meal as three plates and a dessert, but folks are free to pick and choose and create their own tasting menu based on their preferences and hunger," Britton says. "We wanted to offer dishes with a certain amount of refinement, that are simple and elegant without being fussy, that reflect fine dining influence but at prices that aren't prohibitive."

Britton, who celebrated two major milestones this summer -- he turned 40 and got married -- says he hopes to squeeze in a short honeymoon after Fortnight wraps up, then "it's back to the grind. In the longer term, I'd definitely like to have my own place, but to get there I really want to spend the time learning my craft, working with the best chefs that I can."

And, one assumes, not taking late-night phone calls from political reporters.

Josh Richman covers politics. Contact him at 510-208-6428. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.

Fortnight This two-week pop-up at Oakland's Guest Chef runs from Tuesday to Nov. 3; the restaurant is located at 5337 College Ave. For details and reservation information, go to www.theguestchef.net.