A Grain Conference isn’t exactly how one envisions spending a beautiful Sunday morning in Los Angeles. Received an invite to this daylong event and thought it was intriguing – a whole day’s worth talking about grain? Then they added this was only the second year but the first time they were opening attendance to consumers. Any time a trade event opens doors to consumers – they are looking to educate and make aware. So I signed up!
Firstly, I had never even heard of the Gourmandise School at Santa Monica Place. But visiting their website made me feel like I had been living in the dark for ages. In my defense, I have only lived here two years. Their cooking classes sound amazing and once I saw their space I started planning on how to get a party of my friends over for an event. The ladies helming the school and the event, Clemence and Sabrina, are both great folks. The keynote was by Josey Baker from SFO’s The Mill and Josey Baker Bread who talked about his happy accident with a starter his friend gifted resulted in his full-time baking adventure.
This is the first time I heard about the California Grain Campaign – an effort to ensure that all California farmers’ market vendors of baked goods use 20% locally grown whole grains in their products by 2020. I obviously, uninvolved in this industry, had no clue about the efforts by different groups of people to revive local grains, promote it to stores, chefs, consumers, add it to menus, and the benefits to health, soil and environment. The panel with the farmers was an educative session. I understood a lot more about the grain movement from their discussion on challenges and considerations in growing these crops.
The day began with registrations and breakfast at the school. Breakfast included pastries from Sqirl, tarts from Rose Café and Caffe Luxxe coffee. Lunch was provided by Friends and Family – the salads were amazing, and the cookies were gone before you could turn around to reach for one. The swag bag received was a what’s what of surprises thrown in. The evening happy hour networking was a great way to meet other folks from the industry too.
The best part of, without a doubt, was all of the local chefs who were onsite for cooking demos. Classes ranged from milling and baking to pasta and bread making. I attended the morning session on whole grain sourdough desserts with Roxana Jullapat of Friends and Family and then the afternoon session on whole grain pastries with Rose Lawrence of Manuela DTLA and Sasha Pilligan of Sqirl. The closing panel was a female blockbuster on nurturing your culinary passion – Evan Kleiman hosted while Nyesha Arrington, Sherry Yard and Zoe Nathan chatted.
While I am working on a newsier story on this, which will probably take a while to see the light of day, I did want to share my experience and put this event on your radar for next year! I was pretty skeptical as I walked into the conference in the morning and wasn't sure I'd last more than a few hours but it was truly an educative experience with tons of fun demos and a great group of people. I can't wait to try some of the recipes they shares and certainly hope I can do more with the grain movement overall.