Taste of the Nation San Francisco

I’m sure you’ve worked various odd jobs throughout your life.

My roster is pretty short but includes bookseller, librarian, and flower shop assistant to name a few. From a young age, I discerned myself to be a worker bee, someone who likes to get things done, not watch other people do them.

One thing stayed true to form: all roads eventually led back to food.

My first foodservice job involved me tagging along with my best friend Ashley. We would be outfitted in white aprons and floppy white hats selling pastries and croissants at a French cafe and restaurant. I enjoyed the fast pace of the patisserie section of the restaurant and could make a mean caesar salad. It’s no surprise that years later we both are still up to our elbows working with food.

I started working at a young age and learned the pleasure of being able to provide for myself. Mama worked hard and so did my Dad- their examples cast long shadows on what a full day is comprised of.  When they split, I began experimenting in the kitchen as often I would be the first one home, the veritable latchkey kid. Some of my cooking experiments early on were too … ahem… experimental while others worked out just fine. What I loved about working in foodservice was that sense of family outside of the nuclear one, of being hostess, server, salad-maker and developing deep relationships with co-workers as well as regulars. In a restaurant, I had an opportunity to welcome a complete stranger into an experience that I hoped would be one that might uplift them. Hospitality had been passed down from Tita down through her daughters and was instilled in me from a young age. I liked the variation of scenarios in a restaurant setting and then later at events, where I sometimes played a guessing game of what someone might order before they opened their mouths.

I happened upon a fantastic melding of my worlds a few years back through national non-profit, Share our Strength. Their Taste of the Nation event happens in numerous cities around the country, giving chefs the opportunity to do what they do best: cook, for a cause near and dear to so many of them, and for attendees to nosh and sip and enjoy themselves while being benefactors to the cause of eradicating hunger among children in the U.S. Childhood hunger in America- it sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? How does this wealthy country have children who go hungry? And yet 17 million kids were in hunger unstable homes last year. They are the unseen victims of the recession and rely upon the school breakfast and lunch programs more than ever before.

Several years ago, when I began working with Share our Strength (SOS), it gave me a chance to give back and do my small part to address this social problem. This year, I had an opportunity to work on the marketing side for Taste of the Nation San Francisco to help build awareness for the event and encourage people to attend by introducing them to some of the chefs that will be cooking and baking at Taste of the Nation. When a guest would sit in my section of the restaurant years ago, if I described the plat du jour with my own words, this would have a different effect than just reading them on the menu. And I took the same approach with getting the word out about Taste of the Nation.

If people interested in food, in this food-and-beverage-loving-city could hear from the chefs themselves what were the childhood food memories that stood out to them, they might want to buy a ticket so that kids in need could form their own childhood food memories. If they could hear what these well-reputed chefs had to say about Share our Strength, this might shed light on why this organization’s cause could be important to them too.

The event is this Thursday at the Bently Reserve at 7 p.m. and you can still buy a ticket here. Sure, there are other things to do on Thursday night. We live in San Francisco after all- there is always something else you could be doing. But being a part of “No Kid Hungry” is something that can’t wait. This is the next generation we’re talking about.

Hats off to all the brilliant chefs and mixologists volunteering their time, their talent to this important cause. But don’t take my word on why this cause is important- take theirs:

Chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto

Chef Bridget Batson of Gitane

Chef Sophiane Benouada & Chef Michael Koenig of Grand Cafe

Chef Elizabeth Falkner of Orson and Citizen Cake

Chef David Bazirgan of Fifth Floor

Chef Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn

Chef Mark Sullivan of Spruce

Chef Armando Justo of Chotto

Chef Josh Thomsen of the Meritage at Claremont Resort & Spa


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