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New & Now: Indie Chefs Week Comes to Oakland

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Indie Chefs week in Oakland starts September 29th – photo from the Indie Chefs’ website.

Indie Chefs is a new dining collaborative experience that is coming to Oakland for three nights only. 24+ emerging, well-known, and award-winning chefs will be featured throughout the event. Each of the three evenings, 12 local chefs together to co-create a dining experience. You’ll get to learn about each participant, and support the culinary community, all while you eat amazing food created by some of the most talented chefs in the Bay Area and beyond.

Founder Grover Smith and I talked a bit about how this event is special and where the idea originated.“The event originated in 2014 in Austin, TX as a way to get chefs together from across the country for a few nights of dinners, collaboration, networking, and fun.”

“We didn’t want a food festival vibe with paper boats so we focused on plated dinners. In 2017, I took it on the road for the first time and we’ve been doing it ever since,” said Smith.

Chefs working together at an Indie Chefs Week event – photo from the Indie Chefs’ website.

Indie Chefs helps to bring back the reasons culinary artists love to cook

During the pandemic, arguably one of the not impacted industries was the food industry. According to a recent article in the Chronicle, “Between 2019 and 2021 — the depths of the pandemic shutdown — San Francisco lost more than half its jobs in the food service industry, according to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey.”

From what chefs and servers have told me, those who were able to keep their jobs found themselves isolated with a broken connection between food, other chefs, and their patrons. So, when the doors finally started to open up again, Smith and his team decided to bring back the event.

“The focus has changed towards the bonding and chef experience with a goal of getting chefs out of their kitchens and never-ending prep lists to get them back to the reasons they love to cook- the community, creativity, and inspiring one another,” explains Smith.

Indie Chefs is bringing back community, and excitement within an industry that has really struggled to keep that hope alive.

The Indie Chefs events will feature 12 chefs – photo from the Indie Chefs’ website.

The Indie Chef event is featuring some of the best-of-the-best chefs from the Bay Area and beyond:

This is the first time ever Indie Chefs have come to Oakland. This creates a unique opportunity for local chefs to be part of this already thriving community. Oakland’s event has over 24 indie chefs participating and is hosted by the Indie Chefs team, Reem Assil, Nelson German, and Casey Rebecca Nunes.

The list of chefs participating in this event is a foodie’s dream lineup. No matter which evening you choose to attend, you’ll find chefs I’m sure you know of. On the event’s website, the list of chefs includes known activists, leaders within the culinary community, and also James Beard Foundation (JBF) nominees and award winners.

Chef Lamar Moore will be part of the Friday and Sunday evening lineup – photo from his Instagram @chef_ljm

I’m headed to the first evening. I am looking forward to discovering new talented chefs that evening and tasting every dish that will be prepared. I am extra happy to see Burdell on the list for the first evening.

You may have read my short interview with head chef Geoff Davis a couple of months ago. Janice Dulce of FOB Kitchen is someone I’ve heard of but I’ve not yet made the time to head to their restaurant in Temescal even tho I’ve heard a ton of really wonderful things about their delicious Filipino food. I’m also very much looking forward to trying a Native dish created by Crystal Wahpepah of Wahpepah’s Kitchen. Wahpepah was nominated by JBF in 2022 as Best Emerging Chef.

During the evening, you will hear from the chefs themselves – photo from the Indie Chefs’ website.

For a full list of the chef’s featured in the Oakland event and those who participate in Indie Chef events across the country, visit their website here.

Which evening should you choose? With so many amazing chefs featured through the three evening, it’s hard to choose for sure. Smith gave us a few pointers on what to expect.

“The prelims (Thursday / Friday) are a good night to try food from 12 different restaurants while the grand finale is a tasting menu ode to their time together getting to know one another and the local food community that’s hosting us,” he says.

Chefs create a stronger community through their collaboration during Indie Chefs Week – photo from Indie Chefs.

Creating a stronger culinary community

Beyond the exquisite food created by award-winning chefs, what’s so special about this event is the lasting bonds that are created between chefs. When you bring 12 people together for any type of co-working experience, you create a unique synergy between you all. The shared experience strengthens the overall community in a new way.

Smith agrees by saying, “I consider it a huge success when chefs from the same market end up becoming friends or much closer as a result of hanging out for a few days when we’re in town. Most chefs are competitive in-market and tend to operate in silos. They may see one another occasionally, but the typical convos are surface level and may not be totally honest because they tend to consider themselves competitors. We want to strip away that protective trait and get them to work as advocates and sounding boards for one another.”

The Indie Chefs events will feature 12 chefs – photo from the Indie Chefs’ website.

The connections made between the artists cooking for us during Indie Chefs have had positive impacts beyond the kitchen walls. The co-founders of Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate, Kevin Tien and Tim Ma, become friends as a result of Indie Chef events in Washington DC. Chefs also rallied to help each other when COVID slammed kitchen doors shut. “I was extremely proud of how our community mobilized in so many ways to feed and support their communities; chefs like Tracy Chang of Off Their plate, Erik Bruner-Yang of Power of 10 Initiative, Kevin and Tim with CSAH, Melissa Miranda of Musang in Seattle operating a community kitchen,” recalled Smith.

Chefs co-collaborate on the menu and work together to create a dynamic and unforgettable event – photo from the Indie Chefs’ website.

The logistics of the event:

Worth mentioning, your ticket price doesn’t go straight to the organizers. Traditional food festivals often profit the organizers more than the chefs and small businesses who participate. Ticket sales from this event are folded right back into the event by way of food, the space, the staff, and the team of chefs. All expenses are paid by the event tickets. It’s a model that is more equitable all around.

In closing, asked Smith what his favorite part of the event is (besides the food) and he said,  “The excitement, high energy, and being in a place where so many talented people are humming along creating something great together. It’s a very hectic production and I’m addicted to problem-solving issues and seeing it coming together no matter how many challenges we encounter. A close second favorite is learning about all the stakeholders in each community and what makes each city so unique.”

A co-collaborative meal by chefs participating in Indie Chefs – photo from Indie Chefs.

Where to find tickets and more information about Indie Chefs:

Website – grab tickets here: https://www.indiechefs.com/
Instagram: @indiechefscommunity
Tik/Tok:  @indiechefs
Twitter:  @indiechefscomm    
FB: /indiechefscommunity

Chefs which will be featured during Oakland’s Indie Chefs Week:

WHO (featured chef lineup — more to be announced!):


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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy is a professional smiling machine raised in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.

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