Spring 2018 Issue
Early on the morning of Monday, October 9, 2017, I woke up in Nashville, Tennessee, to find my phone already filled with messages alerting me that much of “home” was on fire.
I was flying home that morning to head immediately to Cornerstone Sonoma, where I was to host a bartender symposium for 75 local bartenders and chefs later that afternoon. My initial call to Victoria Campbell, the general manager of Cornerstone’s sister property, Ramekins Culinary School, Events & Inn, revealed that, she, like most in the immediate area of the North Bay fires, was still gathering the facts and trying to stay positive and hopeful.
By the time I reached 10,000 feet and an internet connection on my flight, the picture had become more clear—devastatingly so. Ramekins had already converted its event space and inn into an emergency evacuation shelter. The food they had prepped for our bartender symposium, and every other event on their books, was being finished to feed evacuees and first responders already hard at work.
Similar stories were unfolding throughout Sonoma and Napa counties, as residents were evacuated from their homes and businesses, including farms and ranches, and hundreds of first responders poured into our area to assist local firefighters in corralling the wildfires. Some had already learned the worst: Their homes and businesses had been destroyed as the fires raged that first night.
Almost immediately, the extraordinary food and drink community here sprang into action, offering their time and effort, and real money, to nourish friends, neighbors and strangers in need. As you will read throughout this issue, there was no one leader in these massive and widespread efforts. What happened was a spontaneous upwelling from the hearts of many—some fire victims themselves, like Tuck and Boo Beckstoffer, whose Soda Canyon ranch and home were destroyed the night the fires began.
The gathering together and feeding continued until the fires were contained and those fortunate enough to have homes to return to were able to do so. The effort was so robust, in fact, that first responders coined the term “the 10-Pound Fire,” because many of them actually gained weight during their work here.
And our local heroes have not stopped. From a free community pancake breakfast hosted by the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn in mid-November (where over 1,000 gathered to honor first responders) to high-end dinners hosted by superstar chefs including Thomas Keller, Christopher Kostow and Tyler Florence (which raised big money for rebuilding efforts), our community is still rising up to nourish one another. Read this issue to learn of ways that you, too, can still lend a hand.
As spring dawns in Edible Marin & Wine Country, the North Bay hills are showing signs of the wonderful resilience of nature, and plans to rebuild infrastructure and lost homes and businesses are in the works. None of us will forget the fear and devastation wrought by the fires of 2017, but neither will we forget how we responded to one another.
I am daily and eternally grateful to live in this community