Lee Brown

Food + Shelter: Homeless Chefs Dinner Recap

First, a breakdown of the name:

Homeless Chef: “Homeless” here works two ways. Because a restaurant should feel like a home, it follows that three of the four of the event’s chefs are restaurant-less, or “home”less. These four local chefs donated their time and food costs for the event. Secondly, a portion of the proceeds from this event help to raise funds for the Winter Sanctuary project, which benefits the homeless.

Food + Shelter: Since 2011, Maya Wallace*, of Sacramento Steps Forward, has organized Winter Sanctuary – 133 nights in a row of housing and food for roughly 100 homeless people seven nights a week – from the Monday before Thanksgiving through March 31st.  Various places of worship around Sacramento open their doors to host the homeless who arrive on buses for the meal. Wallace, in her former job as an auditor “was telling people how to fix things and then [she] thought … I’m going to go out and fix something.” The Winter Sanctuary affords her the opportunity to do just that in helping so many people in need, but it needs help too.

Unfortunately, the amount of organization necessary for lay volunteers to pull off a dinner for 100+ people every night can be overwhelming, so Federalist owner, Marvin Maldonado and his wife Bridgette saw a need, paired up with Sacramento Steps Forward, and thought to “throw down a challenge to every chef in the city to put in a night at Winter Sanctuary.” Chefs, no strangers to cooking for crowds, have wholesale ordering access, experience and knowhow that Marvin hopes will encourage them to “pony up, buy the dish, and help a cause”.

Home: The dinner took place at Federalist Public House – an actual house directly in front of Federalist. As you climb up the stairs from N St., you are greeted by a hostess stand of sorts and are treated to all of the charm of picture rails, funny doors, and built-ins characteristic of beloved central Sacramento homes. This event served as something of a “home”-warming as well, in that Federalist Public House is now available to rent for private parties. The space comes turn-key ready, with bartenders, servers, and in-house food, beer and wine (from  Federalist’s menu). You can rent one of the three rooms or all three – the Heirloom Room, The Chef’s Table, or The Founder’s Room. We sat in the Heirloom Room, so called because the table, chairs, plates and hutch all belonged to Bridgette’s great grandmother, who looks on from a painting on the wall.**LEE_2695 LEE_2722 LEE_2732_1 LEE_2739Second, a breakdown of the meal and the chefs so you can learn about what some of your favorite chefs are up to these days and gain a bit of kitchen inspiration:


The Who: Shannon McElroy, of Federalist

The What: “Soil to Sauce” – vegetable crudité & three dipping sauces (Whipped Brie + pancetta, Harissa hummus, and Horseradish mustard)

The Why: Having recently tried a crudité dish at Press in Saint Helena, McElroy, felt inspired to try his hand at his own version. Big platters at every table lined with spring vegetables like radish, yellow squash and green beans kept us happily dipping and chatting until the next course arrived.

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First Course:

The Who: Shannon McElroy, of Federalist

The What: “Fin and Skin” – A spring-y preparation of Smoked trout rillettes (mixed with dill, capers and lemon) accompanied by sturgeon chicarrones and topped with caviar

The Why: All three components of this dish come from celebrated Passmore Ranch, whose products McElroy has been working with more and more. Mostly accustomed to cooking Neapolitan food, this former Waterworld USA chef wanted to try something “out of the box” for him.

The Where: The only non-“home”less chef at the event, thought “Why not invite [the chefs] into my house?” You can find Chef McElroy at Federalist. InstagramLEE_2870LEE_3168 LEE_3235LEE_3142

Second Course:

The Who: Michael Tuohy

The What: “The Ground & The Cow” – roasted porcinis and morel mushrooms topped with a sprinkling of fava beans and spring peas + “the cow” (Parmiggiano Regiano)

The Why: Chef Tuohy wanted to add an earthy element, which he introduced with a “soil”  (made of pumpernickel, Wasa crackers, trail mix, dried porcinis and olive paste) to the night’s menu and balance it out with some acidity (a non-green walnut pesto).

The Where: Good luck. As the Executive Chef for Legends Hospitality (in charge of our new arena), Tuohy is always somewhere visiting the company’s different properties. Because Sacramento is more regionally specific than some of the group’s other markets, Touhy is trying to learn what works elsewhere (and what doesn’t) to ensure that Legend’s first venture into the NBA will reflect our area’s local sensibility and rich diversity. Instagram, TwitterLEE_2822lee_3046 LEE_3232 LEE_3243 LEE_3277

Third Course:

The Who: Adam Pechal

The What: “Farm to Fire” – Lucky Dog Ranch Beef, Chimichurri, and this season’s vegetables

The Why: The term “this season” was fittingly on the menu to capture this sort of liminal time of year where it’s still spring, but the first signs of summer produce are starting to pop up. Chef Pechal, who said, “I love season changes!” combined a salsa of baby artichokes, ramps and morels (spring!) and grilled cherry tomatoes, summer squash and heirloom tomato slices (summer!). Pechal hoped to give diners their first bite of summer with some of the season’s first heirloom tomatoes – unadulterated and delicious.

The Where: You can find Pechal doing events and catering around town, but mostly, he’s working on a new project in East Sacramento. Hoping to open in early 2016, he is in the funding stage of a space that will house a big wood-fire grill in attempts to “reinvent the steakhouse” (hence his grilled dish at the event). TwitterLEE_2801LEE_2849 LEE_3376 LEE_3444 LEE_3469

Fourth Course:

The Who: Kathi Riley

The What: “Crème on the Crop” – panna cotta layered with strawberry rhubarb compote served in Ball jars.

The Why: Since an oven wasn’t going to be available to her for this event, her go-to desserts – rustic galettes (free-form tarts)– were out of the question. Instead, she went for a light, refreshing, and not-too-sweet compilation of Albion strawberries from Watsonville, rhubarb, and chamomile-infused buttermilk. Though Riley is not a dessert chef, per se, the sound of spoons clinking could be heard throughout the house.

The Where: Chef Riley, who worked as Executive Chef at Zuni Café in San Francisco in the mid-1980’s recently cooked there again for a six-month residency. Having now returned to Sacramento where she and her husband raised their daughter, Riley can be found catering and consulting, and eagerly involving herself with the local chef community.LEE_3077 LEE_3494 LEE_3513 LEE_3531Third, how you can get involved:

Wallace, like so many who serve others, works hard and she hadn’t thought to ask for help from the restaurant community. When Marvin and Bridgette reached out, she realized what an untapped resource she has in Sacramento’s chefs. She’s energized about “engaging a different segment of the community” and looks forward to the collaboration’s positive effects this winter.

*If you would like to reach Maya Wallace to offer ideas or help, you can reach her through social media (Instagram, or Twitter) or at mwallace@sacstepsforward.org

**If you would like to inquire about renting space in The Public House, you can contact Head of Catering and Special Events, Liza, at liza@federalistpublichouse.comLEE_2825

Photos | Lee Brown