How a jail culinary program landed this cook at one of Rocklin’s favorite restaurants

Kathrin’s Biergarten is the Sacramento region’s best German restaurant, Rocklin’s liveliest slice of nightlife and a place for second chances.

New cook Thomas Moret came to Kathrin’s Biergarten not from a competing restaurant or prestigious culinary academy but from the South Placer Jail in Roseville, where he spent seven months as an inmate. He completed the jail’s culinary arts program before leaving, which prompted a sergeant to connect him to Kathrin’s Biergarten owner Kathrin Grosse.

Grosse was a social worker at a maximum-security prison in Germany before immigrating to the United States. Those prisons were more focused on rehabilitation and reentry into society than U.S. correctional facilities, she said, giving formerly incarcerated people such as Moret the support and opportunities they needed to stay out once released.

“I haven’t even asked him about what he did. I don’t care,” Grosse said. “As long as you are working here and you’re showing me respect and you’re showing respect for the kitchen and you want to work here and you work hard, I don’t care what you did.”

People with criminal records have long found career refuge in the hospitality industry, where employers often seek practical skills and consistency above a squeaky-clean past. Formal pipelines have become more common in the past decade, including a barista training program at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center.

At South Placer Jail, 46 inmates — most of whom worked in the jail’s kitchen — have completed the culinary arts program since it began in December 2022, said Sgt. Jason Farren. They first complete a five-week culinary math course taught by the Placer School for Adults and earn a ServSafe food handler’s certificate; then they spend nine days learning from a Summit Food Service chef.

Farren had tried to connect Grosse, the only restaurateur currently linked to the program, with four previous graduates (Trio Community Meals, which primarily feeds senior homes, has also hired program participants). Something always fell through — they’d be sentenced to additional time, or skip the necessary interview once out, she said.

She had begun to lose faith when she met Moret, who said he had resorted to “selling” to make money for his family prior to his arrest. He worked at fast food restaurants earlier in life, and cooked in the South Placer Jail’s kitchen during his time there, helping feed 600 people per meal. The culinary arts program gave him hope for a job outside of jail, a stable way to provide for his pregnant wife and infant daughter, he said.

“After I got my ServSafe and got past that, it was inspiring, because I actually graduated something. I stuck through with it. And so I was like, ‘well if I can do that, I can get out and get a job doing this. I might as well not waste my time,’” Moret said.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Moret was initially hired as a line cook, but Grosse thought his skills still needed some work, and bumped him down to prep for more training. Still, he hasn’t missed a shift since being hired two months ago, and has shown marked improvement.

“Today, he rocked it,” Grosse said at the end of a busy dinner rush last Friday.

What I’m Eating

A Folsom favorite since 1992, Visconti’s Ristorante leans on classic charm with its faux marble walls, classical music, framed paintings and recipes from the Visconti family’s days in Calabria and Sicily. The pasta house and pizzeria sits just down the road from Folsom Lake College, while extended family member Frank Gianni Jr. owns Papa Gianni’s Ristorante in Cameron Park.

Some longtime suburban restaurants merely endure, while others weave themselves into the fabric of the town. Visconti’s falls into the latter group, a special occasion spot with a homey feel that collaborated on a house pilsner with Folsom-based Red Bus Brewing and gets its beans from Vaneli’s Handcrafted Coffee in Rocklin.

Veal Visconti ($30) is a house specialty, a decadent amalgamation of breaded calf meat, ham and mushrooms covered in a creamy white sauce and marinara, smothered with mozzarella cheese and baked until gooey. Served with spaghetti, Visconti’s famous garlic bread and minestrone soup or a simple salad (a mustardy Italian dressing goes well over greens), the veal’s delicate flavor still somehow managed to seep through.

The lobster ravioli ($32 with garlic bread and soup or salad) was similarly rich, but less overwhelming. Maine lobster was ground to a velvety texture, tucked into pasta and cooked to just the right amount of doneness, then covered in a tomato cream sauce dotted with roasted garlic cloves.

Visconti’s expansive menu touches briefly on pizza, with a meat combo ($16-$28) pie as stacked as any around. A butcher’s medley of pepperoni, salami, sausage, linguiça, beef crumbles, ham and Canadian bacon piled in sheets on my medium-thick crust (thin is also an option) that turned soft in the middle but held its crunch at the edges.

Visconti’s Ristorante

Address: 2700 E. Bidwell St., Suite 700, Folsom.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday.

Phone: (916) 983-5181


Drinks: Full bar, with specialties such as the Sicilian Kiss cocktail (bourbon, amaretto and peach schnapps).

Vegetarian options: Several, including eggplant parmigiana, and spaghetti tossed with raw tomatoes, herbs and olive oil.

Noise level: Medium-quiet.

Openings & Closings

The Allspicery is leaving its downtown Sacramento home for East Sacramento, owner Jennifer Kaye announced in an email to subscribers on Monday. Kaye, who purchased the spice shop at 1125 11th St. from founder Heather Wong in late 2022, will relocate it to 3711 J St. It’s not yet clear when that location will open, so business will continue as usual at the downtown shop for now.

Hangry Joe’s Hot Chicken will host its grand opening Wednesday at 4001 Freeport Blvd., Suite 110 just east of William Land Park. The Nashville-style hot chicken shop has locations in 15 states as well as South Korea and Dubai.

Bangkok Thai has permanently closed at 6840 65th St., Suite 130, in south Sacramento’s Little Saigon neighborhood. Opened in 2017, it served comforting Southeast Asian dishes such as steamed catfish or khao piek (handmade noodles in broth with chicken, pork blood and fried garlic).

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