"Groundbreakers Q&A" with Two of Sacramento's Top Chefs

One of our favorite conversations in 20190 was with two guys who know their way around a kitchen.

Rick Mahan and Patrick Mulvaney are two of longest-running and most-admired chefs in Sacramento. Their restaurants, The Waterboy (opened in 1996) and Mulvaney B&L (in 2006), set the bar for fine dining in this city, and they're still atop the list of places worth opening up your wallet for a memorable meal.

Join us for a great conversation with these two seasoned veterans of the city's ever-changing, often-challenging restaurant scene as we talk with them about Michelin stars, minimum wage hikes, the mental health movement, farmers markets, and other things that are shaping their menus today.

Listen to the podcast of this conversation on SoundCloud, iTunes and other major podcast players (just type “California Groundbreakers” into the search box.)

California and Washington D.C. Clash Over Immigration . . . What You Can Do To Make a Difference

Our latest "Food for Thought" conversation - How Immigration Issues Are Affecting California's Food Supply -  was a detailed, thoroughly honest, somewhat depressing conversation that also had some threads of hope.

With Washington D.C. now suing California over immigration law, this conversation will only continue. And there is a way you can keep this conversation going -- and make it more uplifting. Our panelists Bruce Rominger, Lety Valencia and Santana Diaz had these two suggestions about how Californians can help the "other" Californians we were discussing last night:

1) Support your local farmers: Buy as much local- and state-grown produce as possible, and fewer out-of-state and out-of-country crops. That keeps our CA farmers competitive with countries paying cheaper wages to workers overseas, and lets them hire the hands they need to grow and reap the crops -- especially labor-intensive crops like asparagus (which used to be a major crop here but rapidly disappearing) and strawberries.

2) Give money to a legal defense fund: Lety Valencia told us there are only 40 immigration lawyers currently working in the Central Valley (which has thousands of farmworkers who are undocumented), and not all of them take pro- or low-bono cases. That means many farmworkers needing help with their immigration status and citizenship are in limbo or leaving the state, because trying to navigate this legal system is tough enough when you're a legal resident.

Valencia's org, Faith in the Valley, started the Fresno Legal Defense Fund and when Fresno's City Council voted no on giving it public money, Faith raised seed funding from Sierra Health Foundation, Wells Fargo and the Latino Community Foundation. But you can help them fund more people's cases by donating to the Legal Defense Fund.

For more background on this important-and-still-trending  topic, listen to the podcast (iTunes or Soundcloud) of our "Food for Thought" event on immigration turmoil in the Central Valley, the World's Salad Bowl

And other organizations you can help with their funding for immigration-specific legal aid are:
* California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
* Immigrant Family Defense Fund
* Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services


The Future of Farming: Our Next "Food for Thought" Talk

The Future of Farming, as summed up in this story in Comstock's:

Rubie Simonsen has a full-time day job but she was motivated enough to enroll -- and complete -- the seven-month California Farm Academy program through the Center for Land-Based Learning last year. While she still has the 9-to-5-job, Simonsen also started First Mother Farms, growing her first crop of lavender on a 1/8th-acre space on one of the Center's incubator plots in West Sacramento.

To date, the Center has trained 96 future farmers, 17 of whom have purchased their own land and started farms.

Mary Kimball, executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning, joins us for our next "Food for Thought" talk at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op on the evening of Wednesday, November 15.  She'll talk about the efforts to inspire young people to get into farming, whether as a hobby or a profession, and make sure there's still enough people in California to grow the food that feeds us.

A Knight of the Hops - and Five Other Groundbreakers of California Beer to Listen To

At our "Brewmasters talk," we asked Steve Dresler, recently retired from 34 years as brewmaster of Sierra Nevada, what was pinned to his shirt collar.

It's the medal of the International Order of the Hop. The Order was instituted more than 600 years ago by John the Fearless who was born in 1371 in Dijon, France, son of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy and King of Brabant. The order is a mark of distinction awarded to those who contribute to the cultivation of the “noble hop” and the “agreeable drink,” beer.

Dresler is the first U.S. brewmaster ever to receive this.

In his speech when he received it two months ago, he said he started his career at Sierra Nevada as chief taster, where he packed four and drank every fifth bottle of beer. There was no automated equipment and he scooped hops from a kettle by hand. “The uniqueness of my career was that it spanned the history of craft breweries as we know them today."

He drove down from Chico to talk to us, alongside Mike Mraz of Mraz Brewing Company, a multiple Gold Medal winner at the California State Fair and another craft beer demi-god in the making.

It's Groundbreakers like these who are shaping Califorrnia beer -- they live in and around Sacramento, and they have lots of amazing stories.

Listen to the podcast of our "Brewmasters" talk with Dresler and Mraz.

Listen also to our brand-new "Icebreakers," mini-podcasts that we upload in advance of our live Groundbreaker events. In advance of the "Brewmasters" talk, we sat down in the recording studio with a few other people who also do groundbreaking stuff in the beer industry, including:

* Charlie Bamforth, Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at UC Davis, also known asthe "Pope of Foam," discusses how his department and its research has shaped the production of California's craft beer.
* J-E Paino of Ruhstaller Beer explains why his is the only brewery in California, besides the mega-big Sierra Nevada Brewing, to grow its own hops.
Glynn Phillips, owner of Rubicon Brewing Company, talks about the rise and fall of Sacramento's oldest craft brewery, and why he closed Rubicon 1.5 months before it marked its 30th anniversary.
* Kate Whelan, director of Sacramento Beer Week, talks about how women are shaking up the beer industry.


Podcast for Our First "Food for Thought" Discussion

We've started a new series called "Food for Thought," in-depth conversations with groundbreakers who run farms, restaurants, breweries and bars around California and are shaking up how we eat and drink - and the way we think about food and drink.

Kicking it off is a discussion from July 6 with two well-known Sacramento restaurateurs -- Andrea Lepore of Hot Italian, and N'Gina and Ian Kavookjian of South. While one restaurant focuses on pizza and the other on down-home Southern cooking, the three owners share a common trait: they wanted to serve food they've since childhood that is rooted in their cultural heritage. They're also now branching out into different, new-to-them areas (a Jewish deli and the Food Factory business incubator for Lepore, the Quinn vintage retail shop and an "urban country club" called the Good Saint for the Kavookjians).

In our latest podcast, hear them talk about how they got started, where they're going now, what food means to them, and how they want to change up Sacramento with their restaurants and future endeavors.

And read these writeups in the Sacramento Business Journal about their latest projects:

* Andrea's Food Factory business incubator

* The Kavookjians' Good Saint "urban country club."


(Photo by Rich Beckermeyer)

Kicking Off Our "Food for Thought" Series

We got a write-up in the Sacramento Business Journal about our new "Food for Thought" series, a monthly discussion with Groundbreakers who manage California's restaurants, farms, bars, breweries, wineries, etc., and are shaking up how we eat and drink -- and the way we think about food and drink.

Writer Mark Anderson sums up what we plan to do very well.

By The Way, This Guy Is Coming To Our Event

Yep, Sacramento's new Mayor, Darrell Steinberg, is going to join us this Monday evening, January 23, as we partner with Comstock's magazine for a panel on the future of innovation in Sacramento.

Mayor Steinberg will start things off by taking about his hopes and dreams for Sacramento as an "Innovation City," and his plans for making that happen. Then we'll ask six great Sacramento-based innovators about how they're going to help him out.

Free admission. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Get there early to grab a seat -- the Mayor kicks off the event at 6 pm.