September 24th, 2013
Jesus Guzman had brought a fish to work, and in the quiet time after the noon rush, he was getting a lesson from chef James Ehrlich on how to deep-fry it.
“I’ve always been interested in cooking,” explained Guzman. “I’d cooked a lot for myself at home.”
A stint working in a fast-food restaurant, however, had somewhat diminished his enthusiasm for cooking, but then through VOICES he learned about an opportunity to work — and be paid — as an intern in a new Napa restaurant, Foodshed.
VOICES, a part of the nonprofit service agency On the Move, helps young people like Guzman, who are transitioning out of foster care when they turn 18. On the Move is working with Foodshed to create the intern program.
Guzman, who had been on his own since 2008, applied and was accepted at the restaurant, which opened this summer. After he completed his three-month internship, he has stayed on as an employee. He spends his day chopping vegetables, doing whatever needs to be done, and most of all learning.
“I love it,” he said, as he watched his fish turn golden brown. “I’m learning something new every day. And it is really inspiring.”
Roots in Rome
While it’s not unusual for chefs to find inspiration in Europe, it more commonly takes shape in recipes and techniques rather than as a concept for an entire restaurant. But this is what Napa native Giovanni Guerrera brought back after a two-year stay in Rome.
Well known in the Napa food scene for his work at Uva Trattoria from 2002 to 2009, Guerrera had moved his family to Rome in 2010. There, he worked with the Rome Sustainable Food Project, established by restaurateur Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley.
Her idea was to feed the members of Rome’s American Academy while promoting sustainable culinary practices. In addition to using seasonal ingredients from Italy’s Lazio region, the program relies on guest chefs and instructors — and interns, who learn by working in exchange for room and board.
When he began teaching at the program, “I was skeptical,” Guerrera said. “But the structure made it work. Interns began with basic tasks, and by the end of their internship, they were preparing dishes.”
Returning to Napa, Guerrera was keen to launch a similar project at home. With him came Ehrlich, who had also been working at the academy, and Amy Radding, who had learned about the Rome Sustainable Food Project as a student at Yale and had gone there to work in it.
In Napa, Sean Pramuk, who had worked with Guerrera at Uva, joined the team as the third partner, and Andrew Pramuk came on board as a sous chef. The plan was to operate a for-profit restaurant, but after expenses and salaries are paid, all the profits go back to On the Move, to support the Foodshed project.
Breakfast, lunch and takeout
Foodshed Pizza & Pasta was launched at the former location of Francis Ford Coppola’s Mammarella’s restaurant on Airpark Road near the Napa airport. The restaurant’s first press release explained: “A ‘foodshed’ is a geographic location that produces food for a particular population, including the land where it’s grown, the markets and kitchens it passes through and the tables it ends up on.”
“We chose the location at the airport because the rents are more affordable than downtown Napa,” said Guerrera. There is, as well, a thriving supply of hungry customers, who go there for breakfast and lunch, as well as takeout and take-home dinners. In the works are plans to start a restaurant version of a CSA, the community supported agriculture program, in which subscribers pay for regular delivery of fresh produce. In this case, it would be a box with a ready-to-warm-up meal.
A small but light-filled space, Foodshed offers seating inside as well as under bright orange umbrellas on a patio, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
In the morning they find freshly baked scones and muffins, granola, Italian-style coffee drinks, teas, and juices made in-house from fruits and vegetables.
The lunch and takeout menus are distinctly Italian in spirit and substance, with Roman-style pizzas, and house-made pastas and sauces as well as sandwiches and salads. A refrigerator is stocked with sauces, pasta, salads and sandwiches for “grab and go” diners.
One specialty is the tasca, hot sandwiches served in pockets of baked pizza dough. Fillings include chicken cacciatore, chickpea fritters with mint-cilantro yogurt and arugula and a “tasca of the day.” On the day the Register visited, the special was pork braised in white wine, with marinated Heirloom tomatoes and red onions.
Typically interns begin with basic tasks like chopping vegetables. “Making pizzas is not so simple,” observed Guerrera.
“The idea is that we make everything we can in-house, including curing meats,” he said. “This way when our interns complete the three months, they really have an understanding of how food is prepared. When they go from here to their next job, they can say, ‘I can do that.’”
As the interns begin to try their hand at cooking, Guerrera said his guiding principle in teaching is “Is it good? Would you eat it?”
Guerrera, who learned his skills by working in restaurants, said there’s a world of difference between learning in classrooms and learning in kitchens. “And we didn’t want it to be a (financial) burden to young people who want to learn.”
“One of the best things about this program is that you don’t need any experience to apply to be an intern,” said Amy Radding, a neurobiologist who learned to cook “by working for free” in restaurants. Now the intern coordinator for Foodshed, she said she has openings for two more interns right now.
“Restaurants won’t hire you if you don’t have some experience or a culinary degree,” she said. “Here, you are learning and you are paid.”
Scott Ellis was Foodshed’s “first official intern,” Guerrera said. “He helped us build out this place. He helped do everything from scrape paint to build furniture to plant the garden.”
“I had no experience, so I said, ‘Whatever you want me to do, put me in there,’” said Ellis, who also learned about the internship program through VOICES. The Foodshed team took him at his word.
When Ellis’ internship officially ended, he, too, stayed on as an employee, doing prep work as well as dishwashing. “I tell my friends washing dishes sucks,” he said, “but the work environment keeps me coming back.
“I want to learn as much as I can about restaurants, because it’s one industry that will always be there,” he added.
Foodshed Pizza & Pasta, at 630 Airpark Road, Napa, is open Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Reservations can be made for parties of six or larger by calling 707-265-7760. For information or to make a tax-deductible donation to the Foodshed internship program, go online to www.foodshedpizza.org.
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July 23rd, 2013
A foodshed is a geographic location that produces food for a particular population — including the land where it’s grown, the markets and kitchens it passes through and the tables it ends up on. Like the flow of water defined by a watershed, a foodshed outlines the flow of food from production to consumption.
It was also the inspiration for Foodshed Pizza & Pasta, which has opened near the Napa airport serving Roman-style pizza by the slice, hot sandwiches, fresh pasta and salads.
Besides its menu emphasizing freshly made dishes from scratch, Foodshed Pizza & Pasta differs from most other restaurants in its work to establish an internship program that offers job training to underserved community members.
The restaurant offers a quick and healthy breakfast, homemade Italian staples for lunch; an extensive takeout menu; prepared take-home dinners, and beer and wine.
Breakfast options include freshly baked scones and muffins, Italian-style coffee drinks from the espresso bar, and fruit and vegetable combinations from the juice bar.
The lunch menu features pizzas topped with house-cured meats, house-made pastas and salads and weekly specials inspired by seasonal ingredients.
Patrons can dine inside or on the ample patio.
Foodshed also offers both on- and off-site catering and is planning special events in the near future, such as “pop up” dinners on Fridays and cooking classes on weekends.
“The idea is to teach healthy cooking while fostering leadership skills and economic self-reliance among those with barriers,” says Giovanni Guerrera, principal owner and head chef. This is made made possible by Foodshed’s collaboration with On The Move, a local nonprofit service agency.
Foodshed Pizza & Pasta will donate all profits to On The Move to oversee and manage the internship program, including identifying and screening candidates among at-risk and low-income youth and immigrants desiring entrepreneurial experience. Foodshed interns will work with culinary professionals for three months, learn the skills needed to be paid in the industry and receive job coaching.
Upon successful completion of the internship, On The Move will provide graduates with stipends and job placement assistance. The first group of interns is expected to begin this September, and all donations to the Foodshed Internship Program are tax-deductible.
“It’s an ideal initiative for us to endorse because it has the potential to make such a big difference in so many lives,” says Leslie Medine, co-founder of On The Move. “Together, we’re creating a mentorship program to help young people learn life skills and gain economic independence.”
A Napa native and experienced restaurateur, Guerrera was first inspired by the idea of establishing a teaching kitchen while working as a chef at the American Academy in Rome where he lived with his family from 2010 to 2012. The Rome Sustainable Food Project was established by chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, to nourish the Academy community while promoting more sustainable culinary practices and inspiring interdisciplinary exchange among resident scholars and artists. The Rome program relies primarily on the work of guest chefs and culinary interns and seasonal ingredients from the Lazio region — and Guerrera’s experience as sous chef and instructor there provided him with the impetus to begin thinking about a new kind of business model upon his return home.
“It was truly life-changing for those who came through the kitchen — for cooks, interns and volunteers,” said Guerrera. Two of Guerrera’s former RSFP trainees were so inspired by his concept that they relocated to Napa to help him make Foodshed a reality.
Guerrera has again teamed up with Sean Pramuk, Foodshed’s co-director and a food service industry veteran, following their successful management of Uva Trattoria in downtown Napa from 2002 to 2009.
Foodshed Pizza & Pasta is at 630 Airpark Road near the Napa airport, formerly the site of Francis Ford Coppola’s restaurant, Mammarella’s. Hours are Monday-Friday, 7:30 am to 5:30 p.m. For more information, or to make a tax-deductible donation to the Foodshed Internship Program call 707-265-7760 or visit Foodshedpizza.org.
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April 30th, 2013
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