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The French Laundry’s Gardener Has Traded Produce For Cannabis

Also: Happy Lemon is taking over SF, and more news to start your day


Aaron Keefer’s watched over the gardens that supply Thomas Keller’s restaurants for the last decade, but now he’s giving it all up to grow weed.

According to a report from Forbes contributor Katie Shapiro, Aaron Keefer, who for ten years has served as the “culinary gardener” for the French Laundry and, SFist reports, the other restaurants in the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, is turning his back on the food world for the burgeoning world of cannabis cultivation, and has been named the Vice President of Cannabis Cultivation and Operations for craft cannabis brand Sonoma Hills Farm.

Keefer, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1994, “honed his kitchen skills under Bay Area chefs Michael Chiarello from Tra Vigne in St. Helena, Jan Birnbaum of Catahoula, and Julian Serrano at Masa’s in San Francisco,” his CIA bio reads. In 2009, he decided to get out of the kitchen and into the farm, and was named Keller’s culinary gardner in 2013.

Keefer had worked for Sonoma Hills in an advisory capacity for a while now, and according to a statement from Sonoma Hills’ Sam Magruder, he “joins at the perfect time as we ready to build our cultivation facility and work toward our first harvest” as the “best cannabis is reliant upon the people that nurture it from seed to shelf.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Keefer’s relationships in the food industry shape the cannabis biz — in an interview with Restaurant Hospitality, he suggests that pairings are where it might soon be at. “We’ve paired wine with food for a long time,” Keefer says, “and cigars are a wonderful digestif, and you can enjoy a cigar selection in restaurants. Why not cannabis?”

And in other news...

  • Food critic Soleil Ho paid a visit to Mission District Guamanian destination Prubechu, and finds it to be a delicious social studies lesson. [SF Chronicle]
  • The NorCal grape surplus has a slew of new data points, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its 2019 Preliminary Grape Crush Report. “While a good deal of grapes went unharvested,” the USDA says, “the quality of the fruit picked is generally agreed to be excellent.” [East Bay Times]
  • Happy Lemon, a boba tea chain with 1,500 (franchised) spots around the world and a cheese tea that Berkeleyside has helpfully ranked, is planning outposts in the FiDi, Mission Bay, and the Transbay Transit Center. [Hoodline]
  • Video footage shows a man calmly walking into Nob Hill Pizza at 4 p.m., and — while its staff was busy with customers — plundering its register. [KPIX]
  • Berkeley’s Alborz Persian Restaurant was evicted in a landlord dispute back in 2017, but now it’s made a triumphant return to the city, with a newly-opened spot at Oxford Street and Allston Way. [Daily Cal]
  • “Burger Inspector” slash artist Jeremy Fish was caught in a hamburger-driven rivalry between the chefs at sister restaurants Fiorella and Violet’s. [SF Gate]


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