NOPA Helps Us In So Many Ways – And Save The Date!

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!

Indeed, we are cooking.



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.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Spicy Black Bean Soup, Cabbage Salad with Beets
Turon (Banana Lumpia), Chocolate Truffles, Pineapple Garnish
Lumpia, Potstickers, Lemper Ayam, Green Onion Pancake, Bun Cha Gio

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!

News about Us!

Ida B. Wells 2016 (photo courtesy of Lemanski and Rockwell Architects)

While we wait for some final construction details to be completed, these two articles came out about us and our school:

Paste Magazine Article by Annelies Zjiderveld:

This is a great article if you are interested in learning more about the focus of our class – thank you always Annelies!

Hoodline article about Ida B. Wells reopening:

A good one if you are curious about the renovations and the feel of our new school.  We will be back inside as early as next week, preparing for our students’ returns August 15th.

We are so excited to get started again!

Let the Sun Shine In

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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.
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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.

Have a great summer everyone!

Garden redux

idabgarden 06262014 webI’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.

Very Thankful

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!

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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!

Back To School Snap Shot of Summer: Great Internships!

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We’ve survived the first week of school, a student tidal wave of nervous excitement in seeing friends and renewed energy to get schoolwork done.   But even on that first day, every student who had a summer internship with a restaurant stopped to mention to me how much they valued their experiences – and that they want to do more.  That’s pretty amazing given the size and format of our school.

We have many industry people and businesses to thank for their involvement with Heat of the Kitchen and this year, we hope to keep expanding our student interactions with the amazing people in food (and the food itself) that we have in San Francisco.  When you eat outside the Bay Area (like I did over the summer) you are reminded of just how lucky we are here.

Here is a quick list of restaurants, organizations and people who have stopped everything to help us, and we don’t want the rush of the new school year to let this get away for a moment more.  Look for more in depth reports on these involvements in the future.

NOPA: for always, always being there for us, whether it has been donations to our Long Table Dinner Events, letting us visit and interrupt their busy schedule and supporting our latest student in his job shadow with Anna Lee – and for patience and thinking outside of the box with our garden challenges.

GGRA: for the cookware that still looks like new and works beautifully, for visiting our classes and helping with speakers, for the scholarship opportunities that have been lane changers for our students and for connecting us to restaurants like Pacific Catch & La Mar.

Pacific Catch:  for understanding our students before even meeting them and giving them great experiences, from interviews to job shadows.

La Mar:  for jumping in 110% with our student intern and supporting him so professionally.

De Young Museum Cafe – for fantastic interview experiences for our students and for going the extra distance with meetings and cookbooks as we prepare to work more together.

BiRite Market Divisadero: for featuring us in their monthly donation and for being so understanding about our calendar of chaos that is school life.

Alexander Ong and Betelenut: for extended interview experiences with our students and your ever present generosity and smile.

We’ve been so lucky to have this kind of involvement, thank you so much!  Now to help a new batch of students get themselves ready to work – they are already eager!

Getting To The Source

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The closest we’ve been to carrots this week: Curtido for our enchiladas.

We’ve been visiting restaurants this last week, it is something I always put aside as a special perk, until I realize how much value even the briefest time is to our students.  Both chefs, Laurence Jossell of NOPA and Alexander Ong of Betelnut, reminded us again of that word: source.  Getting the flavor right demands having a connection to the original ingredient, the source.  Even to know what a good carrot tastes like, as Laurence puts it, becomes important.  And the pairing of flavors at Alex’s restaurant obviously share that sentiment.

The flavor of an ingredient may sound trivial to some, but what we heard was the connection to that flavor.  Which made me think even more about the actual process of connecting to what we do.

So much of what we deal with in daily life is surface oriented. Getting to this text, getting to that email (or if you are an educator, there are a host of acronym-filled tasks to choose from) — real connection to our lives, drifts off.  We see this in our students when we ask them about planning for their future.  In the race to get that diploma, what happens afterwards can become a thought that easily drifts away.

What I love about our class is that our students make a connection to what it feels like to work under pressure, to accomplish a delicious achievement, to connect to a variety of new experiences using all of their senses, from their hands to their tastebuds.  They are starting to know what that kind of carrot “tastes like”,  and better yet, they can actually begin to describe it in real, working terms.  When students get to that source, that connection and value to their potential, then amazing things can happen.

Thank you Laurence and Alex for your generosity!  Time to start planning our next Long Table Dinner.

Garden Magic

This is a super cool project that is suddenly happening:

  • Take one fabulously sustainable & deliciously friendly restaurant (NOPA) with many caring employees;
  • Add in a nearby high school in need of care and community (Ida B. Wells);
  • Sprinkle with super-kind restaurant owners and garden loving administration;
  • And dig and plant and water.

This is so new, many of our students aren’t aware of it, or the amazing potential for all of us to grow and connect.  We are looking forward to getting more involved in the weeks ahead.  NOPA, we may be speechless in our appreciation at the moment, but get ready for some fun with us in the future!  Thank you so much for your efforts!