With its foraged ingredients and recherché gastronomic techniques, the evening menu (priced at $175), at Daniel Patterson’s Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant, Coi, is actually very good value for money. Still, Coi - ranked at 58 in the San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list - is unlikely to attract any of the city's less fortunate citizens to its tables any time soon.
However, Patterson, alongside a number of other noteworthy San Franciscan chefs, have been helping young people learn to cook for themselves via a philanthropic organisation, The Cooking Project. This is a non-profit, community-based organisation that aims to teach kids and young adults the basics of food sourcing and preparation, via its network of chefs, writers, home cooks, farmers and growers.
Patterson had been doing a little informal outreach work at Coi when he happened to meet food charity worker Sarah Bernstein at a local farmers' market. Together they founded The Cooking Project, which teaches vulnerable young people culinary skills every alternate Monday at the city's Cooking School.
"These are kids who have had substance abuse issues, abandonment issues and others, but those issues are exacerbated by bad nutrition," Patterson told the The San Francisco Chronicle. "Having the most vulnerable population eating the worst food is a terrible idea."
Unlike Jamie Oliver's Fifteen initiative in the UK, The Cooking Project doesn't regard its classes as vocational training, but rather as a way to provide crucial skills to young people who might otherwise miss out on the benefits and joys of cookery.
"If you grow up eating Cheetos as your comfort food, you grow up associating that taste with a certain feeling," Patterson tells the paper. "With generations past, instead of processed product, maybe it was braised greens or potatoes."
While Patterson is known for his foraging and exotic techniques, most of the dishes he cooks with these kids are simple, like a bacon soup or a vegetable curry.
It's interesting to think that, while pre-prepared foods were once the preserve of the rich, now its the poor who are least likely to know their way around a chopping board, fresh produce market or a stove. Bravo to Daniel and co for seeking to redress this. For more on this project, go here.
For greater insight into the incredible restaurant he created, please pre-order our wonderful new Coi book, which tells the story of the restaurant, its dishes and Patterson’s philosophy. It comes with 350 Phaidon Club points (or more) if you sign up today. And remember, Phaidon Club is about more than just points towards your next purchase. You'll be given the opportunity to get your hands on limited edition signed copies of books first, be offered truly excellent partner deals along with invitations to events with Phaidon creatives like Daniel Patterson. Join Phaidon Club.