by Jesse Hirsch
If you're looking for ways to perfect your strawberry preserves recipe, there's certainly no lack of options. But Food Craft Institute, the school in Jack London Square that will open its doors in April, is not for the casual weekend jammer. The institute, founded by Anya Fernald of the Eat Real Festival, is for the home artisan who is looking to get serious about his craft.
"This isn't a school for people who want to throw great dinner parties," said Fernald. "It's for people who want to change their lives, and are looking for more meaningful work in the food industry."
The institute offers twelve-week, intensive seminars taught by working, top-shelf food professionals like June Taylor from June Taylor Jams, Todd Champagne from Happy Girl Kitchen, and James Freeman from Blue Bottle Coffee. At $2,750 each, classes aren't cheap, but by the end you will gain all the skills required to start a food business from the ground floor up.
The first class, "Jams, Marmalades, and Chutneys," starts April 21, and apparently the cost hasn't proven too prohibitive; thirty applicants contended for ten slots. Future classes include Pickles, Krauts, and Ferments; Coffee Bar 101; a five-day, $800 seminar on business basics for food startups; and a two-day, $175 "black belt" workshop on charcuterie for experienced professionals.
Can the already-crowded market for small-batch foodstuffs sustain all of the institute's graduates? Director Marcy Coburn thinks so. "It's all about being creative, researching what's already on the shelves, and filling holes," she said. Besides, not all students will want to start their own businesses. Many graduates will seek positions in preexisting food companies, or will use the classes as professional development in jobs they already have.
If Food Craft Institute sounds right for you, but the cost seems prohibitive, you can apply for one of their scholarships. Pre-register for all classes here; someone from the institute will get back to you shortly.
Food Craft Institute, 65 Webster Street, Oakland, 510-250-7811.
Comments? Tips? Get in touch at Jesse.Hirsch@EastBayExpress.com.