Bauman College’s new state-of-the art kitchen. Photo: Sarah Henry

Tonight the whole foods people at Bauman College get to show off their state-of-the art kitchens with Vulcan ranges (and, presumably, their holistic culinary chops) at the grand opening of their new location on University Avenue near San Pablo.

Visitors can check out the elegant remodel–nod to local architect Charles Kahn–of the 1949 building which once housed the Mobilized Women of Berkeley. (The Mobilized Women’s Cooperative, formed in 1917 in response to World War I, was founded on the principles of service to country and community.) Recently earmarked as a landmark site due to its architectural design and historic status, the building features vaulted ceilings, concrete grid form panels, a unique u-shape design and translucent glass blocks in a diamond pattern.

Why move? The non-profit nutrition and culinary arts program, formerly housed in a rabbit warren of a building on Grayson Street in West Berkeley, simply outgrew the space, said Sitarani Brian, the culinary program director of Bauman’s Berkeley campus, which shifted to its new digs in March.

Sitarani Brian, Bauman’s culinary program director./Photo: Daniel Brian

The natural chef instructor, who specializes in vegetarian, vegan, and raw cuisines, as well as macrobiotic, ayurvedic, and gluten-free diets, grew up in the suburban mid-West, one of seven kids whose parents loved all things Indian (hence Brian’s given name and her vegetarian upbringing.)

Brian, 28, has a marketing background but left corporate America to study at The Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City before landing a job at the fancy raw food restaurant Pure Food and Wine. Three years ago she relocated to San Francisco with her ethically omnivorous husband to open her own personal chef business. Her first client, ironically enough, was a chef who was too busy with her own catering business to fix her own food.

Brian missed working in a communal setting, so jumped at the chance to come on board as a natural chef instructor for Bauman College. We spoke yesterday on the eve of preparations for the opening.

How is it running a holistic culinary and nutrition education program here?

There’s such an elevated consciousness in Berkeley about eating healthily, locally, sustainably, seasonally, organically, and ethically. It’s a natural fit. It’s like the bar is set pretty high to begin with.

How well known is Bauman College around town?

Sometimes it seems like we’re the greatest thing you’ve never heard of. But that’s changing. A lot of our graduates go on to work as personal chefs or in therapeutic settings and that’s great. As more of our alumni begin working in the larger community or opening their own restaurants our name recognition will grow. Moving to this central location should help too.

Can you point to any alumni of note?

Jesse Miner, a vegan chef in San Francisco, is one of the most sought-after personal chefs in the Bay Area with a long waiting list. I knew of him before I even moved out here.

Alison Negrin is the head chef for John Muir Health and what a transformation we’ve seen with hospitals embracing a holistic approach to feeding people and recognizing how important nutrition and nourishment is to overall health. Alison has done so much great work in this area.

Many of our culinary graduates are employed as personal chefs by top Silicon Valley executives from some of the big companies, but we don’t name these private clients.

Where do you like to eat in Berkeley?

Gather offers fabulous food in modern surroundings. For brunch I recommend their soft polenta with braised beluga lentils and Bordeaux spinach. Revival has such a different feel, it reminded me of a tavern, with its subdued lighting. I like their black kale salad with bing cherries and fried almonds and the stuffed squash blossoms. 900 Grayson was our go-to spot for chai when the college was across the street. The guys who own the place are just so nice. For brunch I love their tofu scramble with kalamata olives and harissa. We took a group of visiting New Yorkers there and they just raved about the fried chicken and waffles. It’s simple food well done.

What’s lacking on the food front in this town?

I really miss Baby Cakes, the vegan bakery in New York. There are plenty of vegan bakeries here but none that I’ve found coming from a whole foods perspective. They’re all doing refined white flour and sugar. They do a brilliant job when compared to their non-vegan counterparts. I mean a Cinnaholic cinnamon roll tastes like a Cinnabon.  But I’d like to see a whole foods vegan bakery here.

A Taste of Bauman College, 1007 University Avenue (cross is 9th Street), Friday, June 24th, 6 p.m.- 9 p.m. Free.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.

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