underground market

An Incubator Kitchen

On Designing Forage Kitchen

  Lately Ive been seeing design everywhere. From the lampposts to the sewer grates. Look and you'll see it. Everything has craftsmanship. Every peg that is round instead of square, every bench whose arms curve at just the right angle for your arms, every knife handle with just the right weight. Someone sat in a room and designed these.

This of course is not even to mention the obvious work done on the old buildings in the city. Its really amazing if you spend some time looking at them, the level of craftsmanship that goes into every detail. Randomly at the same time I heard about a podcast called 99% invisible, by a guy named Roman Mars, who explores just these kinds of issues. It's amazing, you should definitely listen to it.

I've been on this kick because we've entered into the design stage of Forage Kitchen. Its an interesting challenge, taking what is usually a back of house space (the commercial kitchen), and bringing it front of house (forward facing for the public). Not a lot of thought goes into the physical experience of being in a restaurant kitchen. Fluorescent lights, bad acoustics, hot environment, these are all things that are accepted as fact in most kitchens. They're designed as functional spaces. It's only when the dining room comes into play that designers start to think about the experience of being in a space (and honestly at a lot of restaurants I've gone to I don't think they pay much attention there either).

I want to create a space that feels intimate, but at the same time has functionality. A space that you actually want to spend time in. A space that feels like the home kitchen that people gravitate to. A hearth. A warm space. What is that space? What's the lighting like? How is the equipment arranged? I like timeless design. Large wood beams (I'm thinking about driving to VT to take down my moms falling down barn to use the wood), places that feel like they'll be around forever. Most modern design just makes me uncomfortable. It doesn't seem like it was created with the idea that actual people would inhabit the space

A large part of the users of Forage Kitchen will be non-professionals. People interested in cooking, but who havn't spent time in a commercial kitchen. The truth of the matter is that commercial kitchens are intimidating. To deal with this problem we're going to have separate kitchens for different users, but I also want to create a space where there is osmosis through these spaces. Common spaces where people can interact.

I love the idea of the Makers (non-professional members), staging (helping out) with the business users. Helping them prep, then maybe hiring them for a catering gig. How fun would that be for people, to help make the food being served at their event. Imagine a bride that spent some time in the kitchen making her wedding dinner, it would connect her so much more closely to the food that was being served.

Once we have a couple sketches done, I want to have a roundtable, where I get people who are going to use the space together to let us know what they think. Ive been thinking about the idea of open source design lately. A design that is born through many different opinions coming together. I love that idea. Open source taken into the physical world, to create something that the people involved can actually stand in. Ideas for the space? Want to be part of the discussion? Let me know. Iso


Restaurant Day: An app inspired citywide pop-up in Helsinki

Just read this great article about "Restaurant Day". A one day a year event in Helsinki where hundreds of pop-up restaurants appear for one day around the city. From a woman who lowers breakfast sandwiches from her window, to full fledged sit down style experience. All the pop-ups are displayed on an app, with what they're selling, location, etc. Super cool idea. It's like a headless Underground Market. We should have that here. Check out the full article here: http://ht.ly/b4up7

An Incubator Kitchen

An Incubator Kitchen #4: Fundraising

These blog posts are an attempt to chronicle the creation of something that is totally new to me, a large, physical, brick and mortar shared use incubator kitchen. As this process continues I'll be writing here about what stage we're at, what problems we have, and how we solved them. This is all an attempt to help along those who want to create a similar project, while at the same time letting people know where we're at in the process. Money:

The biggest problem with building a 10,000 sq ft incubator kitchen is that it costs lots of money. Money on a scale that I don't generally think in, and to get that kind of money, fundraising is in order. We've decided we're going to do this in three ways:


We are lucky to live in an area with people who have money. It's as simple as that. Silicon valley blesses us daily with filled seats at our events, lines down the block for food trucks, and soon, a great space for small businesses to help get started. So far I've been approached by a couple investors who are interested in being a part of the project, and have started working with an advisor who is big in the angel investor scene.  I've found that whenever I'm starting something new, mentors are essential. There is no point in beating your head against the wall looking info up online, when someone willing and knowledgable is a phone call away. It's amazing just how willing and interested people are in helping out, all you need to do is ask.  We are still a ways off from locking down investment, but I imagine that about 3/4 of the money will come from this avenue. Finding investors is no small feat, but we are talking to people we know first, people who they know second, and people we think might be interested third. Especially in such a food-centric town, you'd be surprised who wants to be involved. My advice for people looking for investors is to make a list of people you think might be interested and get in touch. The worst they can say is no.


We'd be stupid to ignore kickstarter. It's a great platform for people looking to create something. If you're trying to raise money for something that you think people are interested in being a part of, kickstarter is a great avenue.  The secret is a good video. Something that really draws people in, and lets them know how passionate you are about the project.  In kickstarting a business, there is some concern from the kickstarter.com crew about projects that are not art-centric.  I've heard that most projects get approved, but pitching it as not just a business, but that you're creating something with some other value can't hurt.  Another note is never use the word "invest" in your video or anywhere in your pitch. The SEC considers what your getting through kickstarter a donation, not an investment, so they're sticklers on that point.  We are currently working on a video that I'm excited about that will hopefully be out mid January.  The rewards we're going to offer are going to be things like classes, kitchen time, boxes of goodies from vendors who are using the kitchen, etc.  I want people who invest to really see the fruit of what they're helping to create.


This project is about creating a space that people use to create something that makes them proud. Simple as that. Whether that's a jar of jam or a jam making business. We want to get this idea out to as many people as possible, while at the same time letting people be involved in a way that's more tactile than donating online. In the next several months we're going to be planning tons of events. Movie nights, dinners, potlucks, scavenger hunts, etc, and partnering with the folks we've grown relationships with over the years throughout the city. We don't want this to be a kitchen that just people who know about forageSF frequent, but folks of all stripes.

We're also interested in having part of the funding come from "community shares". Small(er) sums of money from individuals, that will buy them a small share in the business, akin to Claires. It's a small restaurant in Vermont that was started by getting $1000 investments from members of the town. In exchange they were given a certain amount of meals free when the space opened. I love this concept. That the people who want to use a space help create it.

That's all for now. Basically what I've found is that if you're trying to create something unique, you've got to be creative about where the money comes from. This business will be successful, but because it's unproven, there is no way a bank is going to give us a loan. The great thing is that instead of credit, we have an amazing wealth of folks interested in being involved, which is better I think.

We'll be sending out info about our kickstarter and our events soon. If you're interested in helping us organize an event or have an idea for one you think would be great, we'd love to hear it.

An Incubator Kitchen

An Incubator Kitchen #2: The Membership Model

In the last post, I talked about the process of formulating the idea for our kitchen, what programs we would include and why.  In this post I'm going to talk about the model we're considering for membership. When deciding on the membership model for our kitchen, we tried to address two problems:

1. Money: It’s expensive to build-out a space that serves the needs of professional food makers, and it’s expensive to operate it.  Much like the Underground Market, we want this to be a space that is accessible to as many food producers as possible, while being a sustainable business.  We are going to look for grant funding to ensure we can serve low-income producers, while we build a workable business model that serve the entire Bay Area food community.

2. Access: We didn't want this to be a place only for professional cooks.  The Underground Market has shown that there are thousands of people who want to be involved in other ways than as producers.  There is so much more to do with food than simply have a professional business focused on it.   People want to be part of this, and we’re excited about that.

To solve these two problems we came up with the membership model below.  Rather than sell hourly kitchen rental time, accessible only by professional cooks, we’ve created a new system we’re hoping resonates with the public.  Our membership will be tiered to interest for professionals and non-professionals.  If you're interested in using the kitchen 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, there is a level for you.  If you're interested in using a professional kitchen to can the tomatoes from your backyard a couple hours a month, there's a level for you.

If you're really just interested in staying involved, taking classes, coming to parties, watching movies on the rooftop, there's a level for you. In this way, we can have a lot of really interesting stuff going on, allow people who are interested in being involved a road to entry, while generating income to allow us to offer kitchen rental to beginning entrepreneurs at a reasonable rate.  The levels listed below are still up for revision, but that is the general outline of how the space will be run.  If you have any feedback on this model, please let us know. It’s not set in stone, so if there is anything you would like to see in the space when it opens, we’d definitely like to hear it. Please feel free to comment on this post, or fill out this short survey.

Community membership

• First dibs on classes, events, talks, community events, – 2 days prior to public notice the members will receive an exclusive newsletter allowing them to be the first group to access these offerings

• Allows entrance to the Underground Market (which charges a fee for entry)

Community kitchen-users

• 4 hours month of shared kitchen time included 1-2 designated days a week (Sunday and Wednesday 6-10pm – timeframes pending)

• Additional 10 hours month of kitchen rental at a reduced rate

• 10% off all classes and events

• Will also encompass above community member services

Community kitchen-devotees

• 10 hours month included

1-2 designated days a week (Sunday and Wednesday 6-10pm)

• Additional 10 hours month at a reduced rate

• 20% off classes

• All above community kitchen-users services


• Start-up/concept development/low-income program participants

• Still testing the market, making less than $500/month, or not yet generating sales

• One to two people on crew, allowed in the kitchen

• 10-25 hours a month of kitchen time

• Subsidized hourly kitchen rates

• One day a week for kitchen time (8 hours)

• Consulting services built-in through programs/grants

Start-up/concept development/moderate-income program participants

• Testing market, making less than $500/month, or not yet generating sales

• One to two people on crew in kitchen

• 10-25 hours a month

• Subsidized hourly kitchen rates

• Will use the kitchen approximately one-two days per week (8-16 days per week)

• Consulting services built-in through programs/grants

Start-up/production development

• Vetted concept, generating consistent sales

• 4 shifts per week or approximately 32 hours a week of kitchen time

• Two to four person crew per shift

• Consulting services built-in through programs/grants

Graduates/Long-term fixed

• Vetted concept, generating consistent sales and growing rapidly

• 4-6 shifts per week or approximately 40 hours a week of kitchen time

• Tenant may sign 6-24 month lease

• Cost/month fixed - 40 hours per week

SF Underground Market

Our Vendors #3 - and more info on the market

We are making headway on getting the market back open. Working with the gears of the legal apparatus to find a solution. Lawyers talking to lawyers writing letters to talk again. Fun stuff.  Some good will come of it though, and ideally  the market will be open in the next couple months. Until then, check out the vendor stories below, and this great series that Jonathan Kauffman is doing on what it takes to go legit as a food maker. It's a 5 piece story, starts here, but don't click away before reading one of our vendor stories below: Jaynelle St. Jean - PieTisserie

My name is Jaynelle St. Jean, and I am the owner of PieTisserie, a pie shop in downtown Oakland. As a proprietor who launched her business at Forage SF's Underground Market, I wholeheartedly support the continuation and expansion of the market.

In February of 2010, I attended one of the first Underground Markets, held in the Mission District. I was inspired by the wonderful foods and creative artisans, as well as the excitement of customers. A couple of weeks later, I gave away slices of homemade pie to neighbors through the window of my mother's house. People began to call me the Pie Lady, and I considered continuing to give away pie in this manner throughout the city. However, reflecting upon the vendors who sold their wares at the Underground Market, I was encouraged to give selling pie as a business a shot.

In fewer than 18 months, I have gone from making pie in my kitchen for a small network of people, to making and selling pie everyday at a retail location in Oakland, as well as to prestigious corporate clients. PieTisserie has 27 five-star yelp reviews. When I launched PieTisserie I was unemployed. Now, I am supporting myself by doing something I love, and I employ others.

Not only was the market inspirational to me, it helped me not to be overwhelmed by the hurdles to starting a food business. It also allowed me to test my concept with consumers and my commitment to bringing a product to market and growing a business.

The Underground Market spurs enterprise in tough economic times. It also engages people in the sourcing and production of their food, and is one of the most effective community-building events I have participated in in years. It would be a mistake to shut down the market or to change it so substantively as to make it just another farmers market.

SF Underground Market

May 21st Underground Market Vendors

We're at it again! The Underground Market returns to Public Works on Saturday May 21st, with all new and returning deliciousness to behold: DAY

The Nutless Professor - Black rice cheese crisps & Sweets

Absolution – Hot Sauce

Half Pint Pies – Pies in Mason Jars

Go-go Ma's Gomasio - Gomasio

Little Knock – Vietnamese Crepes

Monchi Foods – Pork Kimchi Tamales & Quesadillas

Tapasri – Vegetarian & Chicken Puffs

Urban Preserves – Jams & Pickles

The Cookie Department – Fully Functional Cookies

Simply Mochi - Mochi

Feeding People with Love - Ambrosia

Sandy Hill Preserves – Curds, Preserves & Jams

Good Food Catering - BBQ

Wildwood Pastry – Sweet & Savory Galettes

CocoTutti - Chocolates

I.E. Ice Cream – Ice Cream

Taza – Afghan Bolanis

Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters – Coffee, Brewed & Beans

Chile Lindo - Empanadas

Sweet Vanilla Bake Shop – Sweet treats

Bay Area Bee Company - Honey

Jablow's Meats – Pastrami Sandwiches

Emmy's – Pickles & Jams

Oaktown Jerk – Beef Jerky

Sugar and Swine – Bacon Caramel Corn

Baia Pasta -- Hand Rolled Pasta


Two Bites – Mini Quiche

Fried Pickles by Kevin Dillan

Adobo - Chicken thigh & pork belly adobo

Gluttony Catering Co. – Duck Confit tacos & Veggie chips

Little Knock – Vietnamese Crepes

Frozen Kuhsterd – Frozen Custard

BiBimBopBowl – Korean food

A Humble Plate – Laotian sausage sliders

Boffo Cart – Calzone/Paninis

Schulzies Bread Pudding – Bread Pudding

Rawdaddy's – Vegetarian delights

Sidesaddle Kitchen – Raw Vegan desserts

Hella Vegan Eats –Rare vegan deliciousness

Sajen catering – Kampung spicy rice noodles

Halal Halal – NY Style Halal beef

Jerk. – Jerk Chicken

City Smoke House – Brisket & Pulled Pork Sliders

Busarin kusonroekdee – Thai Curry

Nosh This – Bacon crack and other goodness

Biscuit Bender – Assorted flavors of biscuits

Meat Baller – Meatball Sliders

Island Grubbin – Spam Musabi

Saucy Dumplings! – Saucy gourmet buns

Sanuk – Thai tacos

Marshmallow Mischief – Truffle-sized krispy treats

SF Underground Market

February 5th Underground Market Vendors

The market is at SomArts, at 934 Brannan St, in SF. Starts at 11am, ends at 11:00pm. DAY VENDORS:

Sasonao latin Cuisine  --  Tony Ulloa  --  Nicaraguan cuisine Fresh Bite Bakery  --  Cindy Tsai Schultz/Terry Betts  --  http://www.freshbitebaking.com/ --  baked goods Todd Masonis  --  bean-to-bar chocolate mo foods  --  Caterina Rindi/Jae Brim  --   www.mo-foods.com --  foraged/gleaned pickles & preserves Epicurean Solutions  --  Moira Tocatium  --  Veggie Deli Salads Starter Bakery  --  Brian M. Wood  --  www.starterbakery.com --  bakery Three Bowls  --  Indu Kline  --  Ambrosia - food of the gods James Saltzman's Smoked Bacon  --  James Saltzman  --  smoked bacon & brownies Rokas/Kelli Armonas  --  honey & mushrooms Beet Freaks  --  Sharon Salmon  --  pickles Earth Alchemy Chocolate  --  Susan Marjanovic  --  earthalchemychocolate.squarespace.com/ --  raw herbal chocolate Bread Project  --  Diedre Linburn  --  chocolate chip cookies The Chai Cart  --  Paawin  --  hot chai & chai packets Canvas Underground  --  Peter Jackson   www.canvasunderground.com --  meats & gumbo Raja Sen  --  dal and balsamic vinaigrette Quackery  --  Scott/Ramona  --  kombucha Ben Sawicki  --  flavored kale chips & veggie curry Josey Baker  --  bread Dehesa  --  Edward Lekwart  --  artisan sausages Tamales By Rudy  --  Rudy Santiago  --  burrito-sized tamales German Bread  --  Katrin Staugaard/Daniela Busse  --  traditional German bread & foraged plum jams Le Chaudron Magique  --  Isabelle Sin  --  seasonal jams Kirsten Roehler  --  seasoned goat cheese, seasoned salts & pickled lemons Yaella Frankel  --  chutneys, relishes & salsas Telegraph Hill Coffee Roasters  --  David Oliver  --   www.telegraphcoffeesf.com --  coffee


Flosa Creamery  --  Jordan Grosser  --  bacon-wrapped mochi CoCoTutti  --  Elyce Zahn  --  http://cocotutti.com/ --  caramels, chocolates Jilli  --  Will Schrom and Jacky Hayward--  www.jilli-icecream.com --  sarsaparilla and raw ice cream! Whole Beast Supper Club  --  Kevin Bunnell  --  pig products Lan Kulapaditharom  --  Tawainese: beef/chicken slider & shrimp wonton Lelajay's Ridiculously Good Gluten-FREE  --  Lila Akhzar  --  gluten-free brownie bites Aaron's Almost Better Than Sex Cake  --  Aaron Keller  --  chocolate oreo-toffee cake & beer dogs Sidesaddle Kitchen  --  Laura Miller  --  www.facebook.com/SidesaddleKitchen --  raw vegan pies Mama’s African Kitchen   --  Dupe Bello  --  traditional African curry dishes JazzyB's Recipez  --  Jasmine Ball  --  mac n’ cheese-veggie & w/pork belly A Humble Plate  --  Rathsamee Ly  --  Laotian Food Saucy Dumplings  --  Michael Lee  --  pork & vegetarian dumplings Hella Vegan Eats  --  Sylvester Chitica/James Raushenberg  --  www.hellaveganeats.com --  Vegan deliciousness Luscious Liquids  --  Kathy DeWitt/Tracee Raptis  --  elixirs and such Sajen Foods  --  Morisinah Katimin  --  Gado-gado & satay burger w/peanut sauce (Indonesian street food) Laksa Pho King  --  Stephen Backer  --  Vietnamese Pho & Malaysian Curry Laksa The Occasional Macaron Shop  --  Katie/George Wang  --  www.facebook.com/macaronshop --  macarons Angry Man Eats  --  Paul Midgen  --  chicken & waffles Tamale Nation  --  Alison Greenwood/Maria  --  tamales & empanadas Eric Eberman  --  veggie empanadas Bake It Banana  -- Courtney Dougherty  --  banana desserts

OUTDOOR NIGHT VENDORS: Kitchen Sidecar  --  Katie Kwan  --  www.kitchensidecar.com --  banh mi burger Pizza Hacker  --  Jeff Krupman  --  pizza The Grilled Cheese Guy  --  Michael Davidson  --  grilled cheese Sataysfied  --  Feldo Nartapura  --  www.sataysfied.com --  Indonesian satays Boffo Cart  --  Rhasaan Fernandez/Crystal Williams  -- hot sandwiches & paninis Panguita  --  Andre Joffroy  -- beer battered fish tacos & beef tostadas

SF Underground Market

Night Market

The Underground Market

The Underground Market

A couple weeks ago, we had our real first Underground Market collaboration with Public Works.  It went really well.  Dare I say it was one of the best markets yet?  Almost all the vendors sold out and over 2,700 people came throughout the day.  The Public Works space is really great: two floors with enough nooks and crannies that you’re always discovering new food creations around every corner. On top of that, there were two full bars, which is of course never a bad thing.  We had 60 vendors with everything from bacon wrapped mochi to brick oven pizza to jerk chicken to Vietnamese crab noodles to kombucha. Throughout the day portion of the market, about 500 people came through, which was a good amount for the space. We had a pretty broad range of vendors, from chicken and waffles to kombucha, and everyone who came through seemed to have a good time. The space is such that less people fill it out, although the capacity is still pretty high.  I left at 4 to get some last minute prep done (I made ramen with char siu for the market).

bacon wrapped mochi

bacon wrapped mochi

Although I also organize the market, I almost always cook something.  The reason I started the market in the first place was so I could have a booth, and I’m always more happy cooking than just standing around. When I came back just before six, there was already a line wrapped down the block, and around the corner.   It was great to see. It felt like the second market we did. The first market we ever threw attracted 150 people, and the second one had over 800. I never imagined it would be that popular.  It was so exciting to walk out and see that many people at an event I was organizing. This felt the same way; it had that same sense of excitement. The line was there for most of the night, although it was moving pretty fast, and the market didn’t really die out until around 1am.



Music has always been something we’ve wanted to include in the market.  From the first time, with 15 people sitting in a circle around an acoustic guitar player, I’ve always imagined that music was one of the things that set our market apart from a regular farmers market.  Unfortunately, a lot of the time it’s been an afterthought, something we have, but is not given the attention it needs to really be a focus. Public Works handled that this time. Although it wasn’t exactly the kind of music I listen to, I thought that it gave a nice vibe to the day.  It really went off just like we talked about, with chill, background music during the day that gave way to hard electronic from 12-2. We also had a smattering of acts, from a violin player to an accordion, that were playing throughout the market. It gave a nice vibe, something akin to a Parisian street fair.

Public Works is definitely somewhere we’ll be again. The guys who work there made it super easy to pull off a great market, and the space is great.  We’re actually thinking about having it outside when the weather gets better, which should be a lot of fun. We would close off the street, with a beer garden, music, and lots of vendors outside.

That’s all for now. Overall I think it went great.  A good first collaboration, and definitely not the last (I’m meeting with Kelly from Indiemart this week).   The great thing about this kind of collaboration is the way it takes us out of our heads. Gets some fresh ideas, and exposes us to other audiences. It’s good to see so many people come out to support this kind of event.

Every vendor at the market is someone who is trying to make their passion their profession, and a market like this shows that it’s definitely possible.  For those of you who came late and didn’t find too much food left, very sorry. Amazingly, almost every vendor sold out by 10pm. We actually went out to the market and bought ingredients for egg sandwiches at 11, just so there would be something left. It was amazing how much people bought.  Thanks to everyone that came out, both sellers and buyers, you’re the reason it all works.  For more pics from the market, check out our facebook page

The next market is Saturday Feb 5th at SomArts, 934 Brannan, SF from 11am-11pm


Iso Rabins

photos by Andria Lo

SF Underground Market

mea culpa

So some new information has come to light since I sent that email about SB510. The food safety and modernization act: 1. I got it wrong. Yesterday I emailed people about speaking out about this bill, since I felt it could endanger the underground food movement by hurting small producers.    Turns out the bill already passed in the House last Monday, a week before I sent the email....a bit embarrassing to be sure.  The articles I was reading did not give a date, and for some reason I got it into my mind that it was this Monday. Feeling a sense of urgency, I sent an email without realizing that it already passed, as well as not knowing the finer points of the bill, whoops, my apologies.

2.  Another fact I failed to realize is that the bill had been very much improved with the addition of the Tester-Hagan amendment.  With Tester-Hagan, local growers and sellers are given a pass on some of the more onerous measures of the bill.  It exempts food producers making less than $500,000/year, those that sell directly to consumers, and to customers within 275 miles of their farm.  It also exempts producers that are already inspected by a local government agency (such as the health department).

This makes the bill less dangerous than it previously would have been. I wonder if this could actually encourage the local food movement.  If a farm can save money by selling locally (by being exempt, avoiding paperwork etc.) it may entice more farmers to focus their sales in their communities.

The more I read about this bill the less sure I am about any position. It seems people fall into two camps:

One believes this bill signals the end of small food production as we know it.  By placing undue burden on small producers in the form of extra paperwork and record keeping, the cost of which large scale producers can more readily absorb. This camp sees the bill as an Orwellian overhaul of the way we relate to food, criminalizing even the simple act of giving backyard veggies to your neighbor. They imagine hoards of FDA swat teams knocking down the doors of every small farmer in the county that doesn't file the necessary paperwork.

The second camp thinks this bill won't  change much of anything.  Although it does give the FDA more power, and require more regular inspections of facilities (up to once every 5 years from once every 10), it doesn't give them the necessary budget to do much more than that. As mentioned above, there are also provisions in the bill that exempt any small producer that is already inspected by a local agency, which means just about everyone who is producing food locally would be exempt.   It does seem to give the FDA new powers to track and inspect food facilities, and to force food recalls (which is great, given at the moment all they can do is suggest a recall).  What it means for producers such as me and the other vendors at the Underground Market, I don't really know.  At the moment we seem to be experiencing (at least locally), a thaw on the puritanical idea that food produced at home is totally unsafe.  People are beginning to realize that not every jar of jam made outside a stainless steel clad facility is dangerous. I would like to see that continue and grow.  We can only hope that the new regulations achieve their stated purpose of making our food safer, rather than being yet another weapon for big business to use against  local food.

SF Underground Market

San Jose Market, or How the health department showed up (again)

This past Friday we had our first Underground Market in San Jose. At 5:10, 10 minutes after the market was scheduled to open, I was standing in a circle with a San Jose police sergeant, health inspector, and the fire marshal.  The three people I would least like to be talking to before a market of un-certified foods.

We had made the trek down to the South Bay for the 01SF biennial festival in San Jose, a festival that celebrates art whose tagline is "Build your own world.” From what I saw between meetings with the health folks, it was actually a pretty cool festival. However, it felt like a bad idea from the beginning. Usually we have our market in an enclosed space, or in an out of the way parking lot.  We organize the market as a private club, which is not open to the public, so has been able to avoid government scrutiny, but I’ve always felt that they really don’t want to see it in the open. To have the market in the middle of a city funded festival that the health, police, and fire departments were sure to attend, seemed a bit fool hardy (as my grandmother would say). We have worked it out with the SF health department, but had no idea what the San Jose folks would think. To make sure it was legit, I asked the Zero One folks to probe the health department about the market weeks in advance, to see how they would feel about an event like ours. I was told that they were amenable, if not necessarily comfortable.

Back to the parking lot. It was us, the health, fire, and police departments, and the Zero One organizers standing in a circle. The health and fire inspectors detailing why we were going to get shut down, the Zero One organizers suddenly explaining to us that they had contacted the health department, and they had been told that a market like ours would definitely be shut down! They had known all along, and instead of letting us know, they had forgot to mention that little point. I have not been that mad in a long time.  Suddenly they were acting like we had just shown up, without any partnership with them, to put on the market.

I was sure the market was over.  The conclusion of our talk was a laundry list of the laws we had violated, and an explanation that the next step would be for the inspectors to go around and shut down the vendors one by one. They explained to me that all 29 vendors would have to 1. Go home, wasting all the food they had made 2. Those that had produced their food commercially (about 3 amongst the lot) could buy them for an intensely inflated fee.  The idea of this market is to give a chance to people who are just starting out. To lower the bar of entry in a way. This would have killed the chances of many of the vendors there if it had been shut down.

As we started to accept this as our horrible fate, the health inspector made a phone call and the other person at the end of the line said it would be okay to let the market carry on. With one phone call, the issue quickly went away, as if there was no threat to the market to begin with. We had to give assurance that the market was only one day, and that everyone who entered got a wristband, but that was about it. The health and inspectors still inspected vendors, but it was more a friendly attempt to do the best they could with what they had, and no one had to leave.  The inspector went booth by booth, outlining ways vendors could hew closer to health department regulations, which we try to do as much as possible.

I don't know who this faceless person on the other side of the phone was. One of our vendors suspects that San Jose city lawyers recommended they leave it open less they open themselves up to a lawsuit. A cop who was standing near by told us he thought the whole thing was a publicity stunt to amp up Zero One. I heard a rumor that a channel 5 reporter was taking the angle that the cultural commission had pushed our market as an event that they knew would get shut down, as a way to make the city look bad, although I never saw the story.  To be honest I’m not sure what happened. Maybe San Jose didn’t to shut down an event they allow in SF. Maybe somebody knew somebody, maybe we’ll never know. (if you do know for some reason, please pass it along)

In the end it worked out. The market happened. It started three hours late, but about 1,200 people came. What's so amazing to me about this experience is the clear line it drew of the way bureaucracy works.  Everything the health inspector told us before that phone call was legit. She detailed the law, and why and where we had broken it.  Then she called someone, and the law changed. Which is great. I think the law should change – if an adult chooses of their own free will to eat food that was made in someone else’s home they should be able to.  As it stands now, the government doesn't agree. That night, someone decided that they did.  Every time we succeed putting this market on we set more of a precedent.  A precedent that states that food made at home is just as safe as food made in a commercial kitchen.  That stainless steel and walk in freezers don’t make food safe, but rather the care of person producing it.


July SF Underground Market Full Vendor List

Here's a list of all the vendors that will be at this Saturdays SF Underground Market at SomArts (934 Brannan St). We've got some really great stuff this time around! Remember, you can get a ticket online, or just show up at the door, but either way, you need to become a member here. See you Saturday!

  • Tony (Anthony) Ulloa   -- empanadas and plantain chips -- Sasonao latin Cuisine
  • Julia Lazar and Tom Franco  -- 23Monkeytree -- santosha kombucha
  • Maryanne Cooper (Bendotoff)   -- Foodie Fix -- ice cream
  • Amber Shigg   -- Golden Roots Catering -- vegan and veggie cuisine
  • Lori Lovejoy  -- Laar's whole-grain treats -- whole grain healthy cookies
  • Rebecca Dyas & Rebecca Hardberger   -- R&R Italian Sauces -- Italian pasta sauces
  • Steve Green   -- Dr. Steve's Magic -- veggie & fruit juices and cakes
  • Natalia Anguiano   -- Dona Lucy Salsa -- salsas & moles
  • Caterina Rindi & Jae Brim   -- mo foods -- lemonade, marmalade and sabayon
  • Denise Leung   -- mmmeat! -- asian style carnitas
  • Leah melnik   -- De Lovely -- BBQ glazes and granola bars -- http://delovelydinners.com/meet_the_chef
  • Emmy Moore & Jonah Susskind   -- Emmy's -- pickles & jams
  • Steve Jakubowics & Sarah Choi   -- Nonesuch Bakery -- baked goods --http://nonesuchbakery.blogspot.com/
  • Katie/George Wang   -- The Macaron Shop -- macaroons
  • Susan Marjanovic   -- Earth Alchemy Chocolate -- chocolates-- http://earthalchemychocolate.squarespace.com/
  • Jackie Woods   -- Monet's Cakes -- cupcakes -- http://twitter.com/MonetsCakes
  • Leslie Quinn   -- Zukra Bakery -- gluten-free treats
  • Robert Minasian   -- California Cane & Fruit Co. -- cane juice -- http://californiacaneandfruit.com/
  • Sheryl Leaf & George Gumulsinski    -- biscotti & granola
  • Marisa Williams   -- Dulceria -- cooies & cakes
  • Alice Wilson   -- peach BBQ sauce
  • Amie Bailey/Angie Serna   -- Sugartit Kitchens -- baked goods, pickles & jams
  • Rebecca Ets-Hokin   -- http://www.gorebecca.com/ -- honey
  • Jessica Hubler   -- Sweet Francisco -- sweets -- http://www.sweetfrancisco.com/
  • Cork Marcheschi   -- Red Dot Eats -- carmel-almond-chocolate turtles and filled buns
  • Loris Matterson   -- JERK. (Matterson's Authentic Jamaican Cuisine) -- jerked chicken and bread
  • Erin Wade/Allison Arevalo  --  Homeroom (formerly Little Mac) -- mac n’ cheese
  • Lisette  -- Evil Jerk Cart -- Authentic Jamaiican Cuisine -- http://www.eviljerkcart.com/
  • Paula Tejeda   -- Chile Lindo Empenadas -- empenadas -- http://chilelindoempanadas.com/
  • Keith Agoada   -- Empenada de mi pueblo -- empenadas -- http://lucinaskitchen.com/
  • Roberto Mercado & Katelyn Murdock  -- La Chureria  -- churros w/dipping sauce
  • Emilianna Ceribelli  -- Chef Mili -- French & Brazilian treats -- http://www.chefmili.com/
  • Ahram   -- Ahram Namu Kimchi -- kimchi topped hotdogs
  • Rathsamee Ly   -- A Humble Plate -- Laotian food -- http://twitter.com/ahumbleplate
  • Van Dao  -- Biscuit Boy -- biscuits
  • Will Schrom --   sarsaparilla and raw ice cream
  • Kathy DeWitt/Tracee Raptis   -- Luscious Liquids -- elixirs and mixers
  • Zach Watson   -- Dr. Watson's Sausages for Days -- sausages
  • Rebecca Cheng  -- ??
  • Sarah Dvorak  -- Mission Cheese -- racellette -- http://missioncheese.blogspot.com/2009/09/comte.html
  • Katie Kwan  -- KitchenSidecar -- banh mi burger -- http://twitter.com/kitchensidecar
  • Clay & Robin Knight  --  salsa
  • Ron Escopete  -- Uncle Clem's Food -- chicken & rice -- http://twitter.com/uncleclemsfood
  • Andrew Baber   -- Chu it up -- Gochujang sauce and hot Korean dishes -- http://www.chuitup.com/
  • Becky Spencer   -- urban preserves -- jams -- http://www.facebook.com/urbanpreserves?v=info
  • Moira Tocatium   -- Epicurean Solutions -- deli salads
  • Jeff Krupman   -- PizzaHacker --  oven baked pizza -- http://www.thepizzahacker.com/
  • Brandon Yee   -- pulled pork sandwiches and briscuit
  • Michael Christie/Abby Ward  -- SF Delicious Catering -- French Street Food -- http://www.sfdelicious.com/
  • Seema Hamid  -- Rotee Brunch -- Pakistani | German | American Fusion Brunch -- http://roteebrunch.blogspot.com/2010/04/rotee-brunch-menu.html
  • Genny McAuley  -- Nanny's Mustard -- mustard
  • Laura Miller   -- Sidesaddle Kitchen -- raw vegan cookies -- http://twitter.com/SidesaddleKitch
  • Katy McLean  -- Christopher David Macaron -- macaroons -- http://christopherdavidmacaron.com/
  • Chris Chiang  -- Auntie Priscilla's Gourmet -- curry dumplings
  • James Hall  -- Raw Daddy (JimmiJam) -- raw food cones -- http://www.rawdaddyfoods.com/
  • Branden Herrell  --   burgers w/special sauce
  • Angela Montemayor  -- Angela's Blackbottom cakes -- cupcakes
  • Molly de vries  -- The Fabric Society -- textile carriers -- http://ambataliafabrics.blogspot.com/
  • Devon Fenimore  -- Bakesale Fruit Crisps -- fruit crisps -- http://devonfenimore.com/test2/