Oakland's Food Craft Institute: Nurturing the Next Generation of Food Artisans

The classroom is silent except for the sounds of chewing and scribbling. The air is sharp with salt, spice, and vinegar. A dozen students sit around the large table, heads down, scrawling notes, taking small bites, closing their eyes in concentration.

This is the Food Craft Institute. In its first year, this vibrant Oakland-based organization has already made a big splash in the local food world, taking over the popular Eat Real Festival and attracting scores of local and nationally-known food artisans and celebrities to take part in its classes and activities.

A non-profit organization, the Food Craft Institute's focus is on education and support for food professionals and enthusiasts, particularly local people trying to start or grow their artisan food businesses. The Institute's first master class, a 14-week program in “Jams, Marmalades, and Chutneys,” took twelve students on an intense journey through every aspect of jam-making. Its second program, “Pickles, Krauts, and Ferments,” has just begun and promises to do the same for those who want to build their lives around bubbling vats of good bacteria and barrels of brine.

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