The world still swoons over Julia Child, but San Francisco’s ever-colorful cultural menu boasts Nancy Oakes, owner and chef of Boulevard.
Oakes is turning heads again this month. The James Beard Award winner again is spearheading the 23rd annual Star Chefs & Vintners Gala, which springs to life Sunday at Fort Mason.
It’s one of The City’s more illustrious events because it shows off San Francisco’s hottest chefs — without reality TV — all to generate funds for Meals On Wheels of San Francisco and to assist the organization in efforts to provide nutrition and support to homebound seniors.
This year’s bash ushers in 70 chefs and more than 75 wineries for the cause. It’s a food lover’s feast.
Once you get Oakes chatting, it’s hard not to find her ideas — about food, about life — rather delicious.
About her overall passion for food at Boulevard, the culinary jewel on Mission Street near the Embarcadero which has come into its own since it burst onto the scene in the early 1990s, she says, “I love to cook. I don’t like to clean up.
“But it’s more of an addiction,” she laughs. “Food was always the language of my family. Whenever we all sat down to eat we were already talking about the next things we were going to make.”
She’s also candid about local culinary trends, noting that even though many small, personal, inexpensive restaurants have sprung up over the last few years in The City, “There’s room for a more diverse culinary culture. I don’t think we’re really good at supporting modern cuisines. I don’t know. Maybe everybody loves Italian food.”
Then there’s Meals On Wheels, an organization she has championed for 20 years.
“I don’t hear anybody saying, ‘I can hardly wait to get into an assisted living facility,’” Oakes says in regard to the group’s altruistic mission. “We can surprise ourselves on where we end up. I love this organization because it facilitates helping you execute your dream of remaining independent in a positive atmosphere later in life. It’s allowed people of surprising diversity to get a helping hand.”
As for the overwhelming response to the annual event, Oakes smiles: “It’s in our DNA to do good stuff.”
IF YOU GO
Star Chefs & Vintners Gala
Where: Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, San Francisco
When: 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday
Contact: (415) 343-1280; www.mowsf.org