Over the many years that I’ve been writing this column, I feel consistently called to consider the theme of slow, conscious living: slowing down, savoring, and weaving the stories of artisans and the lives of the makers into the products we consume, as well as considering the impact of the connection that happens when we gather.
I think these values are a carry-forward from the many years I spent in the restaurant business watching chefs thoughtfully select the produce, the vendors, and even the place settings for their restaurants. My mission, of creating beauty as a spiritual practice, evolved over time. It wasn’t always there. In fact, quite the opposite.
In my youth I had the gift of contrast. I worked in a wide range of food industry establishments, starting with McDonalds at age 16, The Sizzler at 17, and working my way up through the ranks of various restaurants until I wound up, 15 years later, a seasoned restaurant professional working in the highest-end establishments San Francisco had to offer.
During that time, I frequented many restaurants as a “professional” foodie and enjoyed hundreds of meals prepared by many of our wonderful Bay Area chefs. I also traveled, touring (and eating my way) through France and Italy, and I even had one lucky week of getting to cook with Jean Pierre Moule, who was a founding chef at Alice Waters’s side at Chez Panisse.
I watched. I learned. I developed a strong understanding that the food that satisfied all the senses — not just my palate, but my heart and soul, was the food that had been prepared slowly, with thoughtfulness, and served in an environment where beauty and simplicity were strongly revered.
The most memorable of my experiences as a restaurant professional were the years I spent on the sidelines of Alice Waters’s incubator-by-proxy, when I was in a five-year relationship with a waiter from Chez Panisse. In those years, I breathed, devoured, savored, cherished, and treasured my lived experience as a devotee of Alice’s church of slow cooking. I was a student at UC Berkeley at that time, and many of my nights were spent sitting in the back dining room and studying while enjoying a Lindsey Shere dessert and pinching myself that I had come so far from my food roots of quick-style American dinners.
While Alice likely knows nothing of my existence, I am forever grateful that I got to witness from afar the slowness, the attention and presence, and the time-honoring processes of marinating, curing, and savoring she brought to my life. “Slow” became my mantra, and ultimately, it became the foundational ethos of my approach to interior design. Quality cannot be rushed and there’s no getting around that fact.
I share this story as a lead-in to the similar joy I felt a few weeks ago on a trip to Healdsburg, where many of the memories of my restaurant world came rushing back to meet me. It was a return trip to visit the home base of our beloved vendors at Studio Bel Vetro, with a luncheon at Sandra Jordan Fabrics, hosted by Sandra along with winemaker/artist and Berkeley native, Mark Harris; the whole day devised and hosted by Sloan Miyasato and the company’s outside sales representative, Ryan Hammond.
The day was full of color and character, with talks and tours featuring artisan-crafted objects and the people who make them, networking with delightful design industry colleagues, and imbibing pleasure through fantastic wine, food, and scenery — for beauty makers, by beauty makers.
It would be hard to say what my favorite part of the trip was… the community connection, the glass-blowing presentation, or the slow meal served. But one thing I can say is that thanks to a beloved colleague, Phillip from Sandra Jordan, I learned that one of their gracious employees is none other than famed Chez Panisse dessert chef Lindsey Shere’s granddaughter.
Earlier in the day I just happened to share with Phillip that once, on a Chez Panisse staff wine-tasting trip to Navarro Winery, back in the ‘90s, as I was walking through the vineyard with Lindsey Shere, we discovered that her father and my grandfather were both coal miners in a small town in Black Diamond, Washington. With Emily Shere’s presence at this event, it felt like my life was in some way coming full circle.
Being human is, in its best moments, about slowing down and pausing, savoring. This event was all of that: slow design, slow food, slow fabrication, slow entrepreneurship, slow relationship; slow meaning: deliberate, thoughtful.
My soul was enriched by the connections and reconnections made with my team, colleagues, and old friends; my aesthetic need for beauty was met by the gorgeous lighting, glassware, textiles, food — even the drive! The entire day was a masterpiece of curation.
Photo Credits: All photos by Laura Martin Bovard
A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post