From NPR's Scott Schafer
: California's Napa Valley is home to some of the world's finest
restaurants. But one of the culinary world's rising stars left the
fancy restaurant scene to cook in a far different setting: a Bay Area
Leaving Napa For Richmond
During lunch time at the Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond, Calif., just north of San Francisco, culinary director Tim Hammack is demonstrating the best way to chop onions.
always been a big part of my life since I was young," says Hammack. "I
would always cook with mom and my grandma and my dad."
grew up in the Napa Valley. After high school, his infatuation with
fine food led him on a backpacking trip to Europe, where he explored
the cuisines of Spain and North Africa. When he returned to California,
he eventually landed a job at Bouchon, a renowned French bistro in the Napa Valley town of Yountville, Calif.
But just as his culinary career was taking off, Hammack started questioning where he was headed.
was cooking for very wealthy people and people of means, which there's
nothing wrong with that," he says. "But I just had a passion for people
who didn't have means."
So eight years ago, Hammack was hired on as head chef at the Bay Area Rescue Mission. He figured it would be a short-term gig.
Bouchon and coming to the rescue mission seemed like a great idea," he
says. "I told them I'd give them a one-year commitment."
Being able to touch the lives of others appealed to him — so much so that he didn't want to leave.
A Feast With Unpredictable Ingredients
kitchen here feeds up to 1,200 people a day. Most are homeless and
struggling to shake off drug use. They won't be getting rack of lamb or
steak frites to eat — but this isn't your run of the mill soup kitchen,
"Yesterday, for lunch we made a cream veggie soup with
homemade creme fraiche, something I would serve in a restaurant, and it
was great," says Hammack.
He says he revels in introducing his "customers" to the simple pleasures of things — like artichokes.
get a shipment of them in and we'll prepare them, poach them, grill
them and finish them with a little garlic sherry vinaigrette or
something, and their eyes open up and they say, 'Wow, this is something
special,' " he says. "That really gives me a thrill."
sometimes also a tremendous challenge. Hammack has an annual food
budget of just $10,000. The rest of the food is donated, often without
"We may have a plan of what we're going to make for
dinner for the evening, and then we get a load of something in and have
to turn on a dime. And all of a sudden, we're making something
completely different," he explains. NPR Full Story