First Floor–Oakland, Food Revolutions and Joel Gion

As many of you know, I really dig CA. I grew up in SoCal in the 60’s, and even though I am a now a threw and through east coaster, I a-l-w-a-y-s feel at home when I step foot in the Promised Land.

I was invited out this time to be a judge at the East Bay Food Fight, which raised the profile of, and cash for, the Kitchen of Champions, one of numerous DCCK inspired “community kitchens” that operate across the country.

(We’re an open-source model, in that we have no interest in hording info or charging for ideas. Our motto: if we got it, it’s yours. Because of that culture, we’ve helped over 60 cities get something similar going since we opened in 1989.)

The Kitchen of Champions is part of the amazing St Vincent DePaul (headed by the Phillip Arca) out in Oakland…a town I’ve visited three times in the last few years, and which I have now really grown to admire.

Oakland is the Brooklyn of San Fran, as you can see by the crowds of cool cats and kittens who have opened, or who frequent, the growing number of swinging restaurants that line Telegraph and Broadway, or who you see on Sunday morning at the Farmer’s Market out by Grand Lake.

I flew in early to be able to drive up to Sacramento…another town I dig, and the first city to open a DCCK styled model (the Sacramento Area Community Kitchen) back in 1992. Funny thing…Donna Zick, the young woman who was all kinds of behind that program is still one of my dearest, closest chums. After connecting with her for lunch, I got down to business and met with numerous nonprofits up there to discuss social enterprise, client empowerment, access to capitol and political engagement. Gordon Fowler of 3Fold and Steve Curuso of Cottage Housing led the way to getting local leaders together, organizing a SparkClub breakfast the next day that was attended by a whole slew of foundation and nonprofit leaders, as well as a reporter from the local Business Journal.

From there is was back down to the Bay for a personal mission…to visit Amoeba Records down on Haight Street to see if I could connect with Brain Jonestown Massacre member and tambourine player extraordinaire Joel Gion.

I gotta tell you….hunting down rock gods is not for the faint of heart or the weird of head. Most are just regular folks who are happy to hang if you don’t act the stalker, and Joel was amazingly sweet to sit, chat and sign a record for my daughter, who shares my love of the ulitimate rock and roll train wreck/love bomb movie DIG, and the breathtaking music of BJM. If you don’t know them—check them out, IMMEDIATELY. You can thank me later.

So…this is already going on too long, so let’s cut to the finale.

After judging the Food Fight on Saturday (which was mc’d by Kitchen on Fire owners Oliver S and Mike C) I met, bonded with and fell madly in love with Amy Klein, the Executive Chef at Revolution Foods. Founded by Kristen Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, this company is boldly, brazenly and deliciously challenging every assumption about what school foods can be, do and make happen. After a tour I grabbed her to film a quick video….watch it, and then check them OUT.

You won’t believe how cool change tastes.