Every quarter feels like a whirlwind. And this past quarter was no exception, and with extra good reasons. Here are some-
October 5th, National Manufacturer’s Day: where our District 5 Supervisor Brown’s office worked with OEWD to bring in 4 small, local manufacturers to tell our students their story. It was such a great way to affirm with our students the hope and drive and support that is out there. Here is a pearl of wisdom from each of these small business manufacturers:
don’t wait for an invitation, don’t hold yourself back, push yourself to take chances (Kelly McVicker, McVicker’s Pickles)
find what you are good at, and then reach out for help (Smitten Ice Cream Ladies)
failing in the moment is not failing in the bigger picture – take the golden nuggets (Josey Baker, Josey Baker Bread)
follow your passion, follow your nose, you never know where it might lead (Christian, San Franpsycho)
Special thanks to Shakirah Simley of Vallie Brown’s office (and Vallie Brown!), Susan Ma of OEWD and Rima Vora of SF Made for their additional help and support in making this happen.
Next, our October 12th Long Table Dinner was a success, in a heartfelt way with our diving into Aleppo. When we think of that first week with our students and compare that with our last week with them, their growth and drive are as inspiring as these small business owners.
It takes looking back and seeing that, wow, we really did do a lot, and more importantly that it meant something – to us, to our guests, and most importantly, to our students.
It is always busy this time of year, everyone is digging deep to finish off school with accomplishment. It is hard to stay intentional as opportunities fly around and distractions tempt all of us- all of the time, time, time.
But way back in January, we were meeting with Sheryl Davis, Director of the Human Rights Commission, who mentioned that Dr. Cornel West was going to be in town giving a lecture in April and that there might a be a pre-reception needing help.
We don’t cater. Cooking and eating and serving together is what we do, because of the lasting connection and self-value it builds. We want the full arc of experience for all of our students. But this was a different kind of opportunity.
And we are so glad we did it! The students made hundreds and hundreds of empanadas, prepped vegetables and sauces and the group of students who could come with us were happy to serve. And – bonus alert- we got to attend Dr. West’s lecture afterwards. It is rare to witness a speaker who is able to call out layers of injustice in a real way and still leave the audience invigorated and inspired. There is so much work to do and we need to do it.
In our rush, we again were hardly able to take pictures, but here is one of Chef Mariah with Dr. West. Thank you Dr. West, Director Davis & The Human Rights Commission for giving us this opportunity. We would cater for this one again!
Thursday lunch time mid-March. Scattered showers mirrored our morning sensibilities as we worked on something new: bringing our high school students into one of San Francisco’s best restaurants to serve lunch to 40 unfamiliar guests. Some might call this a culminating collaboration between education and industry. We were wondering as culinary teachers if maybe we had bitten off more than we could chew, so to speak. It is always that way before an event, isn’t it?
Our culinary class models itself on the best in a back of house restaurant situation most days, as we cook, eat and serve together in an 8-9 week time frame. This event brought it all to a new level in a wonderfully real way- with hospitality. True hospitality.
Laurence Jossel, one of the owners of NOPA often mentions the job requirements to work in his kitchen: you have to be nice, smart and hardworking – and out of those three? Nice is first and foremost. As a guest walking into NOPA, it is almost as if you’ve entered your friend’s (very nice) dining room. There is a clear sense of care and human-ness and value that is calming. And the people of NOPA have been there ready to help us whether it has been volunteering in our garden and classroom to supporting our students in our kitchen or theirs. So yes, the people at NOPA understand this true hospitality, in the front of house, the back of house and in the community.
Maybe this goes without saying, but it seems easier these days for people to just look at the service surface of hospitality without understanding the strength underneath. When you look up this word hospitality, the root is ghosti , one and the same for both guest and host. We are in it together.
There is a sense of ownership that happens when you serve the food you’ve made that you know is good, and we find ourselves, even our shyest selves, moving from not just “owning” the food we make to then wanting to share it with others. We hear students new to working an event say “I didn’t know it felt this good to serve people food” and “I loved it when they appreciated us.” Only hospitality can create that experience, this giving value to one another. Thank you NOPA for teaching and reaching our students with your care and hospitality.
The people of NOPA Restaurant do heartfelt work. As Laurence says, their employees are “nice, smart and hard working.” They truly are.
On Valentine’s Day NOPA closes their restaurants so the employees can take the time to volunteer throughout the City. For us that meant a group came and cleaned up our dormant garden (dormant thanks to a band of hungry 4 legged neighbors that we hope have moved on) to get ready to plant again.
And now we prepare for another generous involvement with NOPA. Our Long Table Dinner will morph into a Lunch at NOPA on Thursday March 15th, 1-2:30pm, in the middle of our March Fundraising Campaign. Tickets and more information will be available soon. We are totally excited!
This is a working kitchen now. I stayed late on this afternoon to finish canning the last batch of grape jelly, made from donated grapes (NaStar Farms) and Barbera grape juice (Muir Made) – no pectin, so it is a softer texture – good for glazing sweet or savory items, or even as a bit of a drizzle on some cheese. There are more donations under the window – fresh quince which have such a welcoming fragrance – and soon will become another delicious preserve.
We’ve been incredibly lucky with the bounty coming into the classroom – thank you! And our students are tackling the large quantities with gusto as we gear up for our first Long Table Dinner in two years.
Here are a few shots of class over these past few weeks, a Jamaican themed menu from last week, and an Asian dumpling inspiration on another week:
What impresses me most right now is the very determined nature of our students. It is compelling – and it will definitely come in handy in the weeks ahead!
As we turn our menu discussions towards the Long Table Dinner, (LTD 7!) we hope you will set aside the evening of Thursday October 6th and join us for this fun event where we will turn our newly renovated main hallway into a pop-up dinner venue, for a delicious multi-course meal made and served by our students.
Menu details and a link to tickets to follow soon!
Wow. The end of May blew my mind. We knew we were moving. All of a sudden here we are, unpacking. In our newly tiled kitchen. With windows. Real working windows!
You know what? I cried a little.
Continuing around the room, there is one feature we are particularly proud of, something very important. Perhaps only some chefs drool at the idea of a new hood. It is that shiny silver thing on the ceiling, center back. This allows you to bring in the fire power of professional cooking. For us that happens to be a 6 burner gas range. (We like to keep things small yet powerful.) And where exactly is that firepower? It is waiting patiently outside the room while contractors figure out the easiest way to squeeze it in. We know it will happen.
So enough basking in this for a bit. What helped us get through this past year and a half while our culinary classroom was being created? Our students and their resilience first and foremost, and their willingness to try a hybrid version of our class, definitely. And there are many more people who helped keep us reaching week after week:
Dan Scherotter, he allowed us to use the OC Culinary space part time, which allowed us to actively work with our students again- so important!
BiRite Markets, what great staff! In their busy business, they seamlessly found ways to bring in a few of our students as produce interns at their Divisadero Street store. They are a stellar example of great teamwork in action.
NOPA Restaurant, so generous and gracious with our intern there! True support and best training ground for hospitality and life.
De Young Museum Cafe, Jason finding a way to give our students a chance. Thank you for creating another great workplace and for your involvement!
AOHTFS & CTE – Oh acronyms. These are our academy board and district department. School districts have to be steeped in accountability, but it is artful how in working with these two groups, we can feel that their supporting us in our work is their priority.
And most of all, the people I get to work with at Ida B. Wells, in particular: Debbie Guardado and Michael Martinez. One can’t keep doing the same thing over and over (isn’t that the definition of insanity?). Having a team who understands the heart behind the heat keeps that most important spark going.
I’m learning that the garden at Ida B. has had many people come through and grow food – from beautiful examples for after school programs to intentionally farming to see how much will grow. The amount of donated hours put in, are just amazing and humbling. It has been hard to find a way to consistently support this important effort in the chaotic nature of our school.
So it was with some fear that I ventured into the garden towards the end of June to help Stephen, who has been still hanging in there with this garden since NOPA owners and employees came through and really cleaned things up a few years ago. He is out there for so many good reasons, and sets one of those examples that will keep me humble – and grateful.
Why fear? Well, truth be told, I love growing food, but given the choice between gardening and cooking, you will find me where I’ve had more success, the kitchen. Also, having been at Ida B. for over 5 years, I’ve learned that summer on this hill is reminiscent of those scenes of stormy seas, with seamen braving the force of nature at the prow of their wavering ship. You stand at the top of this garden and have to hold on, the wind is so strong. But Stephen has plans this year, do you see those wooden boxes, patiently waiting for starts to protect? I think there is some magic going on down there, to work with the literal forces of nature. Magic that our school needs to learn how to support more this time. I’m realizing that whether or not I have a green thumb, it’s time to spend more efforts in the garden and prepare our students for the importance of growing our own food. And after a few weeks away, I’m eager to see what it looks like now. More soon.
If you want to see a few moments inside our class, and hear why we do what we do, take a look at Nopalize’s video interview (click on the picture below).
I’m speechless and super thankful.
Thank you Nopalize!
Today’s task before College & Career Day started (which was another success!) was to build a table centerpiece using only the items given to them in a bag. The students only had about 20 minutes. All of the centerpieces were festive and I enjoyed this one in particular, surrounded with each student’s individual wish… World Peace, Opportunity, Creativity, Passion, Tranquility, Teamwork, Mutual Respect… Gourmet Cooking!
May your Holidays and New Year be filled with all of these and more. Wishing you all the very best!