Sunday, October 10, 2010

Staff Party

Glen Ellen (Sonoma county), October 10, 2010—

EVERY YEAR, about this time of year, the staff of Chez Panisse gathers for a party. Not many know, I imagine, that the restaurant employs something like 120 people — cooks, waiters, bussers, dishwashers, maintenance workers, office staff.

This year, as is generally the case, the party was on the farm — Bob Cannard's farm on the southeast flank of Sonoma Mountain. Bob has provided much of the produce used at Chez Panisse for getting on to thirty years. Every day fruit and vegetables ride down from Glen Ellen to Berkeley, and compost rides back up. Frequently Chez Panisse staff spend a few days on the farm, helping out, and learning the soil-to-table connection.

This year the meal was cooked by non-staff — in fact, by former staff. It looked to me as if Kelcey Kerr and Samantha Greenwood were doing a lot of the work on the line. Food was cooked over open fires and barbeque grills, as has often been true. The weather was ideal: a hot day, but plenty of shade from Bob's huge twin black walnuts. Wine came from Beaune Imports, owned by a former Chez P cook (he still steps into the kitchen on special events), Michael Sullivan.

The line

The menu:

Hog Island Oysters
Tomatoes, fennel, radishes, carrots with lime and salt
Gilbert’s Guacamole
Roasted almonds

Tamales and salsas by Karen Waikiki
Beans with pork belly
Grilled squash and scallions

Fruit a la Cannard
Mexican wedding and chocolate wafer cookies.
Mexican hot chocolate

It was, as always, a perfect afternoon. For nearly forty years I've been amazed at the people who make up the staff at this restaurant: their enthusiasm, intelligence, skill, above all their heart. It's a privilege to know them and a pleasure to share their company.

Quincy, Cuvée de Beaucharme, 2008; Bourgueil, Jour de Soif, 2009 (both are beautiful wines, the white silky and full of flavor, the red deep and serious with terroir but very enjoyable)

No comments: