Get to Know Guide Tori Ritchie

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Tori Ritchie is a hoot. So if you’re lucky enough to join her on tour you’re in for a good time.

A seasoned culinary professional who trained at Tante Marie’s Cooking School, and completed an externship at Chez Panisse Cafe, she proudly calls herself a cook and not a chef. In her view, chefs work in restaurant kitchens and cooks work in home kitchens and there is a big difference between the two. She’s on a mission to help home cooks.

Her latest cookbook is The Side Dish Handbook. She teaches cooking classes at Draeger’s Cooking School and food writing classes at Stanford Continuing Studies, including an upcoming class this summer.

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And she’s done a lot of food TV, from 91 episodes of Ultimate Kitchens on Food Network to a reality show on the web called In the Kitchen with Tori Ritchie. For many years, she did a series on CBS The Early Show called “The 5-Minute Cooking School with Hannah Storm.” “It was fun and nerve-wracking and I cut my finger on live TV twice,” she says, “I also got to appear on Oprah.”

We asked Tori to tell us more about her marvelous culinary adventures.

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1. How did you come to work at Edible Excursions?

Lisa saw a photo of me on social media with an Edible Excursions bag over my shoulder and a Christmas wreath on my head. I was standing in the rain in front of the Ferry Building, trying to keep my head dry, and somehow Lisa thought I’d make a good guide! She had given me the bag years earlier when my partner Sam wrote a story about her for the Chronicle.

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2. What's your favorite part of the job?

The best part of the gig is talking about San Francisco history and San Francisco food. This is my hometown and I’m passionate about it. I also love learning from my guests, where they come from, what they eat and cook at home, where they’ve traveled and eaten. It’s an exchange of information on my tours, not a one-way lecture.

 3. Where are your favorite places to dine out locally?

I only go out for food that I can’t make well at home — great pizza (Pizzetta 211), Burmese food (Mandalay), big fat bar burgers (Violets). That list will tell you that I hang out in the Richmond district a lot.

4. When you’re not leading food tours, what else do you do in your professional life?

I went to culinary school at age 24 and have been writing and teaching about food ever since. I’ve written many cookbooks, been food editor at San Francisco magazine, had a long-running show on Food Network, and now produce a recipe website called tuesdayrecipe.com. When I started out, cooking didn’t have the cachet that it does now and people thought I was nuts, but I never wanted to do anything else.

5. What kind of home cook are you?

I cook at home five to six nights a week and I always let the market tell me what to make. That’s why I love farmers markets. You go there, you see what’s vibrant and fresh, then you go home and cook it.

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 6. What’s your favorite farmers market?

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market may be the grandest of them all, but I have two other favorites: the one at Fort Mason Center and the one in the Inner Richmond on Clement Street. They are both on Sundays so I alternate.

7. Can you share some kitchen wisdom with us?

My pet peeve in the kitchen is grating cheese and my favorite kitchen tool is a rubber husband (watch this video to find out what I mean).

8. What's your desert island food? 

I’m not an island person, so if I’m deserted somewhere, it had better be snowy mountains. I’d be sitting by a fire sipping a negroni and there would be a pot of beef stew with caramelized onions, from my book, Cabin Cooking, on the stove.

9. What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your culinary life?

I love volunteering for Food Runners, a nonprofit that delivers food to the needy. The joy I get from giving hungry people something to eat is the best part of my career.

 10. Can you share a tidbit or two about what you would like guests to know about the tours you lead?

Get ready to really taste the food. I love asking guests what they find delicious about each thing — the spices in the chili, the salty-sweet chocolates, the intense cheese, and the outrageous ice cream. And how about those textures in the macarons? Crispy/creamy, chewy/smooth. I’m drooling now!

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Lisa Rogovin