Want to ask Alice Waters about a recipe? Bay Area chefs join fundraiser to help restaurant workers affected by COVID-19

ByJuan Carlos Guerrero KGO logo
Saturday, June 27, 2020
Top Bay Area chefs join Ask Chefs Anything fundraiser
Ever had a meal and wanted to ask the chef how it was made? Ask Chefs Anything gives you a chance for a one-on-one video chat with famous Bay Area chefs.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Have you ever wanted to chat with Alice Waters about her pioneering cuisine at Chez Panisse or ask David Kinch from Manresa about the vision behind his tasting menu that earned him three Michelin stars? Here's your chance.

Top Bay Area chefs are auctioning 30 minutes of their time to have one-on-one video conversations with the public.

It's part of the Ask Chefs Anything campaign, an effort to raise money for immigrant restaurant workers who have lost their job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Those people are instrumental from farming to building restaurants to serving food, so they are really essential to the food industry. Yet they didn't receive any support from the government," explained Anna Polonsky, who created Ask Chefs Anything three months ago with her friend Gaeleen Quinn.

Ask Chefs Anything is an online auction. It first launched in New York and raised $30,000. It has since been rolled out in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia and other cities raising more than $110,000.

The funds raised are used to buy food for immigrant workers who do not qualify for unemployment benefits or did not get a federal stimulus check. The National Restaurant Association estimates 8 million food industry workers have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

"It would not be hard for one to imagine losing their job and having no source of income. No funds from unemployment," said Nate Norris, chef at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.

Even though his restaurant has not been able to reopen yet, his kitchen staff has been kept busy preparing meals for public housing residents. It is something he has been doing since the start of the pandemic in collaboration with World Central Kitchen.

When Norris heard about what was being done in other cities, he reached out to Polonsky to do something similar in San Francisco.

Norris took the lead in the Bay Area. He began calling fellow chefs to join the effort and got an overwhelming response. In all, 49 of the most famous Bay Area chefs and food industry influencers signed up.

They include Dominique Crenn from Atelier Creen, the only female chef in the country with three Michelin stars. Also on the list is Anthony Myint from Mission Chinese Food, John Finger from Hog Island Oyster Co., Gabriela Camara from Cala, Michael and Lindsey Lusk from Quince, Steve Sando from Rancho Gordo and Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann.

"People sometimes ask career advice, sometimes a live demo or recipe tips. They can really ask chefs anything," said Polonsky.

Norris is also taking part and, as the campaign states, he's willing to answer anything. Even how to make his signature roasted chicken.

"I will answer anything as honestly as I can. Whether it is something in terms of culinary technique but also it could be having a conversation on topics that are more important right now," added Norris.

The 'Ask Chefs Anything' auction ends Monday night. Bidding starts at $100.

In the Bay Area, all profits will benefit The Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay (ROC - The Bay).