The Last Course: CCA Leaves Polk Street

thelastcourse1.jpgThe CCA’s Carême Room served its last grand buffet this past Friday. Anyone who has recently driven by that familiar corner of Polk and Turk, with its clumps of white-clad culinary students smoking on the sidewalk, would have suspected as much, what with that huge sign advertising “Building for Lease.”

With only 300 students enrolled — down from a peak of over 2,000 — it became untenable to sustain two separate facilities. The SF Weekly’s exposé last year about the institution’s “burnt chefs” is old news. For years already, chefs and kitchen managers (myself included) had banned CCA interns from our kitchens because of their abysmal lack of skills. Still, few of us expected to hear that the grand Polk Street location would be abandoned in favor of the Potrero Hill’s cold, unwelcoming space.

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Thyme Shortbread


Refreshing smoothies one day…hot tea the next. It’s San Francisco, after all, so sundresses and icy drinks enjoy but brief moments of glory. As much as I reveled in salads last week, I’m baking this week to keep our kitchen warm.

All that exuberant sunshine encouraged my little pot of thyme to bolt and bloom. Usually, I snip a sprig here and there, but faced with a sudden bounty, I needed to figure out how to use it all up. I found lovely photos of sugared thyme, with detailed instructions on brushing each sprig with a thin layer of egg white, sprinkling with granulated sugar, and then baking lots of cupcakes for something worthy to garnish. Tempting, yes. Realistic, no.

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Smoothies: Youth-Powered Sweetness

smoothie-glasses.jpgTeaching kids to eat and drink healthfully requires much more than admonitions. After carting away the vending machines and abolishing the Big Gulps, we can’t leave the kids empty-handed. Rachelle Boucher from Generation Chefs is working hard to fill the void. From the popular Pizza Smack-Downs at COPIA to her weekly cooking classes (free to high school students) in the beautifully outfitted kitchen at the Marin Youth Center (MYC a.k.a. “Mike”) she’s bringing fresh, whole, homemade food generously flavored with reaffirming messages and lots of common sense to a wide and diverse group of kids.

A visit to one of her cooking classes reveals her consummate skill in converting teens to the cause of healthy eating. Endowed with humor, warmth, and endless energy, she’s a master of choreographing 25 wary bundles of apathy and hormones into productive teams of excited, skilled, fruit-and vegetable-loving cooks.

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Food Hacks

doeverythingbetter.gifAlthough I couldn’t attend this past weekend’s Maker Faire, with its inaugural section dedicated to food, I did have a chance to learn a few new tricks for the kitchen.

It’s not a recent phenomenon for cooks to hack their utensils and ingredients—Homo “Handy Man” habilis figured out that meat on the stick thing, Mongol horsemen multitasked by salting and tenderizing and cooking their meat under their saddles, and my mom catches plump frogs with her pasta colander—but the DIY movement has inspired a whole new generation to explore simple, cheap, ingenious ways to accomplish everyday tasks.

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Small Bites: Postcards


Black Tartarian Cherries: “Copyright 1910 Edward M. Mitchell, San Francisco”

In celebration of National Postcard Week, which spans the first week in May in the US and UK, be sure to send out a few notes to your favorite folks. An actual piece of personal mail, let alone hand-written thoughts for someone you know and love, is the closest thing to a hug you can share long-distance.

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