A: I joined Bi-Rite in February of 2012, post-Italy. I currently manage the community giving and outreach across the Bi-Rite family of businesses (their 18th St Market, Divisadero Market, Bi-Rite Creamery, 18 Reasons, Bi-Rite Farm, and Bi-Rite Catering). My job is to develop and implement a community strategy that not only elevates our current efforts but creates deeply impactful programs along the lines of youth employment and empowerment, serving local schools, supporting the communities in which we operate, and sustaining a good and just food system. I also develop recipes for and make our in-house jams and preserves for our Public line and teach canning classes at 18 Reasons. In addition, I also work as a grant consultant for a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded initiative working with underprivileged youth across the US to change their school food systems.
Q: Tell us about the Public label. I love the community aspect of the product.
A: We created our Public label to bring more transparency to your typical store brand. Unlike the private labels produced by other grocers, we know the exact (short!) story of every one of our products: where it comes from, who produced and how it was made. It’s been an incredibly exciting process, working directly with farmers, artisanal producers and our staff and guests to develop some awesomely tasty goods, like San Marzano tomato sauce, stone fruit jams, wine, extra virgin olive oil and spicy pickles. On my end, while developing our preserves, it’s been super fun to have a supportive environment that allows me to be creative, and share the same high standards for quality.
Q: What is your philosophy of food preservation?
A: Preserving isn’t some “twee trend.” It’s a practical, necessary skill and a way to connect communities to the land and to each other, across race or class lines. For the past several years, I’ve worked extremely hard to refine my craft. This MSN Grio article speaks well to my approach to preserving.
Q: What new products are in development? What would you like to see next for the Public label?
A: We’re exploring more ferments like kimchi, and we’re doing it a little differently, using kale for example. I’ve developed more seasonal recipes, and it’s time to start working with a copacker to produce them. If something special comes in, I’ll make a small batch to get it on the shelf and test it out, and if it’s a success, we’ll develop it at a larger scale. We’ve been doing this for a while, and people get excited about it. One of the reasons I like working at Bi-Rite is that we can do this sort of thing–work with farms to get amazing produce for excellent preserves and sell them at competitive prices at the level of quality people expect. This is my favorite time of year. You feel so productive. I have nocino going, vinegars, plum jam, all kinds of things in my pantry. It’s fun to be at home and make small batches, test recipes, and think about how we could bring them to market.
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