For ten years, Edible Excursions has donated food tours to CHEFS, a culinary program for homeless, low-income, and other at-risk individuals seeking food service industry skills. CHEFS, which stands for Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Service, is an initiative that deserves our support.

Participants receive three months of intensive, hands-on kitchen training, followed by a three-month internship in a San Francisco restaurant or commercial kitchen. Many program graduates have gone on to regular employment in the industry.

About a decade ago, Episcopal Community Services, which runs CHEFS, contacted Edible Excursions founder Lisa Rogovin about teaming up to help round out their culinary students’ education.  

Lisa jumped at the opportunity to donate two tours a year to this vulnerable demographic. “It’s my way of playing a small part in helping someone who may have been homeless or otherwise struggling in this city have a chance of landing a decent job,” she says.

Sometimes the smallest gesture can make a big difference. Says Lisa: “One student thanked me at the end of a tour for giving him my undivided attention and making him feel like his opinions and ideas mattered.”

One of the more than 1,000 CHEFS program graduates.

One of the more than 1,000 CHEFS program graduates.

The Ferry Building and Farmers Market Food Tour feels like a perfect fit for CHEFS.

On this excursion, guides have conversations with guests about sustainable farmers, seasonality, and the culinary applications of different produce. Guests also experience first-hand what a berry, tomato, pear, or orange tastes like when picked at just the right time for maximum flavor.

“I remember sharing Yerena Farms strawberries with a CHEFS group—we tasted Chandlers, Albions, and Seascapes side by side,” says guide Karen Solomon, a cookbook author. “The CHEFS were so impressed by the range of tastes, and it was beautiful to see this culinary realization on their faces. ‘Yes, there’s more than one kind! And they actually have different flavors!’ To me, it looked like the awakening of their inner food nerd. It was a gorgeous thing to see it unfold.”

Guides also discuss the Market Match program, designed to make shopping at the farmers market more accessible. The program offers recipients of CalFresh EBT benefits (known informally as food stamps) financial incentives to shop at the market, which is run by CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture).

Typically, Edible Excursions guide Carrie Sullivan, who also works as the culinary programs manager at CUESA, greets the group at the beginning of tour and tells students about free cooking demonstrations, volunteer opportunities, and other CUESA resources, such as their seasonality chart and online recipe archive.


As on all our tours, guides encourage guest participation. Culinary professional Tori Ritchie talks about the importance of developing a sense of taste as a crucial skill for kitchen employment. At each Ferry Building stop she asks CHEFS students to describe what they’re eating. “At Cowgirl Creamery, they really put their minds to it,” says Tori, recalling a recent tour group. “One guy thought the cheese was really ‘cheese-y.’ Others said it was rich, buttery, or delicious. Then one guy said: ‘I taste flowers and sunshine and rain.’ I was thrilled,” she says. “What a great description of terroir! Everyone else got it then, too. “

For more information about the CHEFS program, including how you can donate, contact Episcopal Community Services. Or check out their delicious fundraising gala on May 2.

Lisa Rogovin