Invited by the Institute for Leadership Studies at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA, Mario talked about the significance that terroir has on food, protecting the soul of the food, and envisioning an Eataly in nearby San Francisco — although the full hour was also jam packed with his infectious sense of humor and questions from the audience.
Mario’s book — called America—Farm to Table: Simple, Delicious Recipes Celebrating Local Farmers — does contain recipes, but its message is really about the principles of sustainability and farmers’ roles in producing quality food.
“I want to taste food the way wind blows in Marin County. When I go somewhere, I want to eat food that lets me know where I am, like the dirt. [The] farmers near us are custodians of soil. If you want to know why a zucchini in my restaurant tastes so good, it’s because it took 10 minutes to get from the dirt to my place,”Mario said, adding he wanted to emphasize “the deliciousness of a local farm,” which “resonates with soil and water and wind, which is Northern California.”
Before the lecture and book signing, guests were invited to a reception hosted by Bon Appétit and The Institute for Leadership Studies to meet Mario, see his orange Crocs and orange Sharpie (which match his strawberry blonde hair), and enjoy a regionally inspired menu.
Upon walking into the reception area, guests were treated to wines from new Locally Crafted vendor Unti Vineyards of Healdsburg, CA. The flavors of other Farm to Fork partners were on full display. Wood-fired pizzas featured king trumpets from Gourmet Mushroom Farms an hour away. SunFed Ranch short ribs were tossed to order with goat cheese and arugula ravioli. Frog Hollow Farm poached pears highlighted Bakery 350 Executive Pastry Chef Ian Farrell’s tart topped with whipped crème fraîche and pomegranate seeds.
Mario received a surprise — a visit from Bon Appétit Director of Specialty Culinary Programs Jim Dodge, whom Mario had first met back in the food and wine circles in San Francisco many decades earlier. Jim surprised Mario while he was pre-signing books in a private room and accompanied him to the main event. They had a good laugh together and enjoyed catching up and posing for some fun group photos with the rest of the starstruck team.
Submitted by Joseph DeBono, Executive Chef