I went up to the bay area recently to attend the True Cost of American Food Conference for my Culinaria project. While I was up there, I visited Iso Rabins to see his new project, Forage Kitchen.
Iso Rabins is the forager and chef behind ForageSF and Wild Kitchen. ForageSF organizes classes and trips teaching people how to forage for food. Wild Kitchen is an underground supper club that holds pop up dinners at locations around the Bay area, with each of their courses containing a foraged ingredient.
Forage Kitchen is another food related endeavor that Iso is creating, this time in partnership with Matt Johansen. Forage Kitchen is a community kitchen/incubator space for local artisans and chefs. The idea is to provide a professional kitchen and office spaces for the chefs and a cafe in front of the house and a communal outdoor space for the public.
I wanted to see the space Iso had leased in Oakland for the project so I thought it'd be fun to pay a visit and see how the project is coming along.
Seeing a space in the middle of construction is always fun for me as it is an expression of the hopes and dreams of the owners. It was nice to listen to the excitement in Iso and Matt's voices as they showed me the various areas and told me their ideas of how the spaces will be used.
Iso's idea is that providing the artisans and chefs a professional kitchen to work on their products would create a community of like-minded people in similar situations with common needs. Who knows what kind of relationships and ideas get fostered by having many people practicing the same craft next to each other? Iso is also harnessing the idea of power in numbers. The space would lower the cost of starting a business or testing out concepts as the shared space would do away with many costly items on the buy/to-do list of a new business. Iso and Matt are still brainstorming ideas to benefit the members. For example, getting a CPA to provide business accounting services to the members, saving the artisan time and effort in trying to find one herself.
Besides creating a space for chefs to develop their business, Iso was excited about using the kitchen as a laboratory to build and test gadgets and develop methods for a more ecologically sound practices and reduced waste in preparing food at a commercial level. Excited like a 14 year old kid about to launch a rocket he learned to build from Mythbusters excited. He quickly rattled off several things he wanted to try. Let's just say Iso has ideas.
The day of my visit, a crew was painting the interior walls. Overseeing the work was Lois who with her husband John owned the property. Lois is a dynamo with a warm and elegant mien that her utilitarian work clothes could not hide. Iso and Matt are lucky to have her as the owner as she is an interior decorator and brought to the project her invaluable experience. The three discussed the latest color samples she picked and talked about the littlest details about color and how they could affect the room.
The place is gonna turn out beautiful and it will be due to Lois's expertise.
We talked more about different things; Iso's vision for the cafe in front, his idea for the great coffees he'd serve, meeting city code (Iso, like many visionaries and normal people, is not fond of bureaucracy), etc. But a more pressing need arose in terms of food, as in, "let's get some" so we went off to get some sandwich and talk more about the beauty of building codes.
Final note: For the courtyard, the current plan is to have tables and chairs for people to congregate and enjoy their food. Ideas of hosting various events in the evening to provide a community space for people to gather have been floated (story-telling night has been suggested). The two would like a nice shade tree next to the tables and discussed various options and issues: oak? maple? how the color of leaves during the seasons work with the building? will it be tall enough for people to stand under?
My vote was for an orange tree. It can grow tall enough to provide shade and for people to stand under, it provides fruit (I mean come on! foraging people are running this joint!) and most importantly, the blossoms have the most wonderful scent! There's nothing like the scent of orange blossoms filling the cool California winter air. If you attend the opening and there's an orange tree in the courtyard, you can thank me! ;)
Speaking of openings, Iso didn't have a firm date for the opening. You know how building projects can be. But if you want to be there for the party, go here to get information about Forage Kitchen and sign up to be in the loop with the news.