Better Makers: Local Culinary Royalty Brings Magic To Sprouts’ Benefit Gala at Mister Jiu’s

Some of the Bay Area’s most notable culinary luminaries lent their star power to help nonprofit Sprouts Chef Training’s reach its fundraising goals at its March 13 gala at Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco, including bestselling author Michael Pollan, three-time Michelin Star Chef Dominique Crenn, and Edible Schoolyard Project founder Alice Waters. All proceeds from the dinner, prepared by five Michelin-Star chefs, funded vocational training through the Sprouts Chef Training program for young people experiencing hardships.

Auctioneer Liam Mayclem Sprouts Board Member Michael Bauer Sprouts Founder Kate Rogers Michael Bauer's Partner Michael Murphy
Auctioneer Liam Mayclem Sprouts Board Member Michael Bauer Sprouts Founder Kate Rogers Michael Bauer’s Partner Michael Murphy. Photo courtesy of Kim Thompson Steel.

The event was both a celebration of San Francisco’s vibrant culinary scene as well as the inspiring graduates of the Sprouts Chef Training Program. The program, launched in 2012, helps at-risk youth achieve stability and financial autonomy through life skills coaching and ​restaurant internships.

During the course of the evening, guests feasted on passed canapes and appetizers from Charles Phan of Slanted Door and John Wesley of Sons and Daughters. This was followed by a four-course dinner consisting of hamachi crudo from Dana Younkin and Nancy Oakes of Boulevard, Alaskan halibut from Brandon Jew of Mister Jui’s, dry-aged beef from Richard Lee of Saison, and brown sugar cake from Kim Conroy of Butter&.

They also bid on number of food-themed luxury packages during the evening’s live auction, including a culinary tour of Vietnam hosted by Red Boat Fish Sauce owner Cuong Pham; internship days at Chez Panisse and Atelier Crenn and a progressive dinner with former San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer and restaurateur Kash Feng.

Sprouts Founder Kate Rogers, Alumni Katelyn Neroza, Maya Roberts Calling Attendees to DInner
Sprouts Founder Kate Rogers, Alumni Katelyn Neroza, Maya Roberts calling attendees to dinner. Photo courtesy of Kim Thompson Steel

During a panel discussion amongst Pollan, Crenn and Waters and moderated by Kate Rogers, the founder of Sprouts Chef Training, the three influencers discussed “the healing power of food,” with each offering a perspective on how new chefs can be both kind to the environment and to colleagues. Jamie Oliver, who was not in attendance but sent his regards via letter, acknowledged that, “It’s been an absolute joy to see Sprouts’ Chef Training program positively impact dozens of lives over the years. I commend all of you for doing your part by investing — sustainably — in true change.”

Two Sprouts Chef Training graduates, Katelyn Neroza and Chris Hey, shared with the audience how the program has positively impacted their lives.

Sprouts Chef Training Alumna Laura Villalta left with Chef mentor Nite Yun
Sprouts Chef Training Alumna Laura Villalta left with Chef mentor Nite Yun. Photo courtesy of Kim Thompson Steel

By the end of the evening, the event had raised $330,000 — surpassing the nonprofit’s goals and providing enough funds to support job training for 66 local youth. 85% of the program’s graduates continue working in the culinary industry, with many hired on by their host restaurants.

Sponsors of the event included :


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Freelance writer in Marin who writes about family, kids and parenting, Glass is the mother to one son, one dog and a hamster named Miss Geri. When she’s not writing, trekking up steep hills in Marin or driving her kid to sports practice, she and her family spend time in their tiny cabin in Lake Tahoe. She avidly supports the California Academy of Sciences, a world class science museum and research institution, and the Institute on Aging which provides much needed services to Bay Area seniors and disabled adults. Glass is obsessed with baking the perfect loaf of banana bread, something she makes so often she no longer needs to look at a recipe card.