Writing the history of California cuisine as it evolved during the past 30 years would pose a daunting challenge, even if you had lived and eaten your way through it.
So when the University of California Press approached Joyce Goldstein to write the book, the former chef and cooking teacher was leary.
“I've written 25 cookbooks, but I'd never done a history before,” she said in a phone interview from her San Francisco home. “It was a little scary.”
Leveraging her reputation as a trusted insider, however, Goldstein was able to get interviews with 200 movers and shakers of the movement, including North Bay pioneers such as Sonoma cheesemaker Laura Chenel, Petaluma poultryman Jim Reichardt of Liberty Ducks, Napa forager Connie Green of Wine Forest Wild Foods and St. Helena chef Hiro Sone of Terra restaurant.
Then, Goldstein carefully braided their stories into an engrossing narrative, relying on her background as one of the innovative chefs who brought “flavor first” to the table.
“I knew everybody actively involved in this field,” said Goldstein, who worked at Berkeley's Chez Panisse and went on to serve as chef/owner of the groundbreaking Square One in San Francisco. “I knew they would take my call.”
After three years of intense research and writing, the 320-plus-page book — “Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years that Changed Our Culinary Consciousness” — was released last fall as the first authoritative account of this watershed moment in American cooking.
Goldstein grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., lived in Italy, then taught cooking classes from the mid-1960s through the 1980s in San Francisco.
Q: Some of Wine Country's pioneers are mentioned early and often in this book. Could you talk about their contributions?
A: There's a whole Wine Country story, because the wineries and the restaurants were mutually symbiotic, each supporting each other.