The East Bay—Berkeley in particular—is pretty famous for being the home of ingredient-driven, quality food. So many great chefs, including many “graduates” of Chez Panisse, are making amazing food all through the East Bay.
Kelsie Kerr is one such chef, though if you ask around, you might be surprised that you are not more familiar with her as a “brand name.” Kerr led the kitchen for many years at Chez Panisse, then co-founded Cafe Rouge on Berkeley’s 4th Street—where she was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 1997. She is also the co-author (with Alice Waters) of the bibles The Art of Simple Food and The Art of Simple Food II.
Recently she opened Standard Fare Kitchen & Pantry in Berkeley (near West Berkeley Bowl), a one-stop fine take-away dining.
“Kelsie is probably the most admired chef of any chef I know in the East Bay,” says Boot & Shoe restaurant’s baker and Park Day School parent Jenny Raven. Jenny curated the Homesteader Stage this year, and when we were talking about Kelsie’s session she said: “Do people know how lucky they are that she is coming to the Faire??!”
I’m not a chef but I’ve eaten Kelsie’s food many times. Her food is sublime. It might be a Standard Fare tuna sandwich—but it is a tuna sandwich so fine that your jaw drops in awe: micro-sliced lemon on loose, light albacore with split green beans, aioli and arugula, on house-baked foccacia. Kelsie’s standards are high.
Another example: Kelsie collaborated with Berkeley potter Jered Nelson of Jared’s Pottery to design and create gorgeous ceramic terrines for the take-home vessel. The end result? Food that is not compromised by transport, is enlivened by re-heating, and is gorgeous to serve. Another level of take-out entirely.
When I asked Kelsie how she identifies with the maker community, she said she gets pretty darn geeky about what she makes. “Like fresh shell beans: that there are 5 or 6 kinds, all different and exciting, they each taste certain ways, and are only available at certain times from only certain farmers.” She’s passionate about what she makes, and her materials. Her favorite tool? A good light, sharp 8” knife.
So clearly we are more than excited to have Kelsie teach minestrone on our Homesteader Stage this Sunday. Minestrone may *sound* simple, even humdrum. But that’s Kelsie’s special trick! Don’t be fooled by it — make sure to be at the Homesteader Stage (just inside the 42nd Street gate) this Sunday at 1 PM!