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Global Menu Mix

10 sunny, sophisticated Northern California dishes for summer of menu love

Sourdough loaves as far as the eye can see, cold Pacific brimming with fresh seafood for cioppino (to be sopped up with the sourdough), farms on rolling hills, freakishly tall forests, culinary influences from around the globe, the glittery goldrush spirit of the West, seeds planted by Alice Waters and plenty of avocados…Northern California food is bliss.

Chef Jason Hull is homegrown in Marin, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and not too far south of Napa Valley. His family settled in this beautiful oceanic farmland in 1937. Now, as director of food services and chef/director of the culinary farm at Marin Country Day School for the past 18 years, this family man and dad to a high school grad takes time to reflect on how the terrain and the culinary legacy of Northern California have shaped his culinary career, and his life. 

After Hull graduated from The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in nearby St. Helena, his first job was at The Lark Creek Inn, “which was serving farm-fresh deliciousness on white tablecloth,” he recalls. “Menu items like meatloaf, Caesar salad and apple pie were simple, but the fresh ingredients made these dishes shine. Fresh from the farm and gardens. This was where I belonged and the kind of food I wanted to serve.”

Conjuring visions of magical meals, Hull continues, “we love our food and world-class wine in California…a big bowl of cioppino with Dungeness crab, clams, mussels, calamari, shrimp and snapper all swimming in a savory tomato broth getting sopped up with a thick slice of sourdough bread…or a beautiful Cobb salad with all the ingredients coming from our local foodshed…or just a platter of garlic French fries or local oysters. It’s all delicious, it’s all fresh and we are going to eat it!”

In particular, the proximity to farm-fresh food plus strong culinary culture paired with the responsibility of feeding kids has been a real flashpoint in Hull’s philosophy as a school chef. 

“During the 70s and 80s, the Farm to Table movement gained much steam behind visionaries like Alice Waters and what I think of as California cuisine,” Hull says. “But that term means so much more, with many different cultures and fusions woven into it. California’s a melting pot from around the globe with influences from Asia, Native Americans, India, Africa and South America, just to name a few. If we can’t feed people in the right ways in California with all the incredible resources we have around us, then who can? We have zero excuses!”

Hull plans to continue “fueling my school community in ways that are healthy for our students as well as the planet as a very proud school chef.” See Hull’s California-style Mediterranean salad, plus NorCal-cool dishes from Stanford University Dining and more. 

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