Photo credit: Jayson Carpenter

Photo credit: Jayson Carpenter

“I was a chubby baby, fated by food,” says Laurence Jossel, Executive Chef of Nopa. “Food has been a soothing thing [for me] from the beginning.” Food shifted from source of comfort to career when Laurence became a dishwasher at age 14, eager to earn money for his first car. From there, he was hooked. “I loved the adrenaline; putting money in my pocket.”

Photo credit: Jayson Carpenter

Photo credit: Jayson Carpenter

Laurence’s connection to food deepened as he shifted from washer to busser, waiter, cook, and eventually chef. “I’m in the business of delicious,” he says, “There’s something about super fresh and direct.” Laurence explains that going straight to the source and cooking with regional ingredients isn’t just about achieving optimal flavor; it’s also about karma. “I don’t have to worry about the negativity that is sometimes part of the long chain of food when I work directly with someone who has insight into when and how it was picked.”

He notes that the pride in these relationships goes both ways:  “The farmers will be proud of what we put on the table.” Education is another mutually beneficial part of these relationships. Laurence gives farmers tips on how to cook what they’re growing, and they introduce him to new varieties. His latest discovery: the Momo tomato.

Further supporting the work of small farmers by taking part in Grazing at the Kitchen Table was a no-brainer for Laurence. "[They are] the core of our food. Small farmers farm with intention. [At Nopa], we shop with intention and cook with intention."

Laurence works with over 80 farms a year at Nopa. There’s no place he’d rather do it. “I have such access in this place and time. I think this is the zenith of cooking in the world. All I do is try not to screw it up.”

Experience Chef Jossel's delicious creations this September 22nd, 2016 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. The event will be hosted at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Tickets on sale starting Tuesday, July 19--don't wait to reserve your seat! Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

Photo credit: Jonathan Fong

Photo credit: Jonathan Fong

Our chefs for Grazing at the Kitchen Table are an incredibly passionate and generous group of people that share a similar value set to the farm clients with whom we work. They are deeply committed to making positive change in our food system, seeing far beyond the bottom line of their businesses. Going to the farmers markets, educating and investing in their staff, and curating delicious and warm experiences for their guests are among the heartfelt ways that they express their commitment to a local and sustainable food system.

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing one of our Grazing chefs, Laurence Jossel of Nopa, speak at a CUESA event. (Laurence participated in our first Grazing last year and has graciously agreed to join us again this September.) During the CUESA presentation, I listened to Laurence describe how he views his role as being an ambassador of the farmers he supports. He visits a farmers market almost everyday and falls in love with all the glorious fruit, vegetables, and proteins, which he then brings back to his staff at the restaurant. For him, it is important that his staff cultivates authentic connections to the farmers so they are able to understand and convey the work and commitment of their growers. This connection is nurtured at NOPA through field trips and farm dinners for staff. In between these farm visits, Laurence encourages his staff’s engagement with local ingredients right at the back door of Nopa. When nectarines are ripe and ready, Laurence can’t help but bring a few cases back from the market for the whole team to taste the season, one juicy bite at a time.

As Laurence demonstrates, our chefs play a precious role in honoring the work of our farmers by thoughtfully preparing their ingredients and allowing them to shine on the plate. During Grazing, they create the fare that brings the entire evening together for our community of donors, volunteers, and champions. What this offers to our guests is connection—to the farmer, to the chef, to each other, and to ourselves.

It is truly an inspiring and delicious evening, leaving you feeling connected to all the people and flavors in the room and amazed that the meal was crafted completely in alignment with your values.

Thinking about what these chefs contribute to Grazing, I am extremely grateful for their talents and resources. Time and again at Kitchen Table Advisors, we are reminded that people are our most important asset and relationships matter. Owing to this beautiful community of ours, which is always expanding with new relationships, we are fortunate to gather together our Grazing chefs. With each chef introduction, our extended Kitchen Table Advisors family grows with new changemakers. This September at Grazing, I invite you all to come meet our community of chefs—including Chandler and Daniel from Piccino, Laurence from Nopa, Gabriela from Cala, Rebecca from Zuni Café, Sophina from Calavera, Aaron from Petit Crenn, Dennis from Namu Gaji, and Cortney and Nick from Bar Tartine—and taste the connection to our farmers.

Grazing at the Kitchen Table takes place from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Tickets go on sale in July. Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.