Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are blessed to have an extremely active and happening food scene. Our proximity to America’s produce basket—the farms of the San Joaquin and Central Valleys of California—makes us lucky to have an abundance of amazing, fresh produce all year round. The variety of vegetables and fruits available at any given Farmer’s Market on a Saturday or Sunday is simply astounding. Barely a week goes by when I don’t see something new—some sort of vegetable or varietal—that I’ve never seen before at our markets—from tiny striped green Thai eggplant that resemble unripe tomatoes to purple peppers to Casaba melons, the bounty offered has helped to inform the culture of our famous “California cuisine”–fresh, seasonal ingredients with an emphasis on local sourcing.
Starting with people like Alice Waters and the opening of Chez Panisse and Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto in the 70s, the Bay Area has fostered a burgeoning food culture that honors the land, the farmers who grow or raise our food and the people who make it for us. I don’t know how many times I’ve told people since I moved to the Bay Area five years ago that at most restaurants in San Francisco—and now Oakland—you are hard pressed to find a bad or even mediocre meal. The quality of what’s out there and the talent of the chefs in our area are just that good. Having left my native California as a teenager and lived a good portion of my life in both the Midwest and also on the East Coast, that is simply not the case in most parts of the country, where chain restaurants with unhealthy options abound and it can be difficult to find a green vegetable other than spinach or string beans at the local grocery. Here, we’re spoiled that way, and we’re extremely lucky…
The risk taking that has characterized California since our pioneer and Gold Rush days continues here with our food culture, as well. Although the entrepreneurial spirit that is most closely associated with the Bay Area usually brings to mind Silicon Valley and the tech sector, there is a food entrepreneur (or perhaps more accurately, artisan) movement that is spreading far and wide.
As a food lover and native Californian, I’m fascinated and excited by how our area is supporting and sustaining this movement of food artisans, and I’m continually amazed by the diversity of what they are doing and the creativity of their food endeavors.
To highlight and honor these amazing, risk taking food artists (yes, artists), I will be starting a new feature on this blog tomorrow (and moving to Fridays after that) that highlights the people here in the Bay Area who are putting their love of food out there in the world one cupcake or pickle or loaf of bread at a time, making our lives a little sweeter and more savory every day.
If you know of any local food artisans that would be interested in being interviewed for this blog, please contact me through this blog’s Facebook page.