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Friday, August 14, 2015

Play With Clay and Food This Sunday

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Unfinished bowls at Jered's Pottery in Richmond, CA. - THE DAPPER DINER
  • The Dapper Diner
  • Unfinished bowls at Jered's Pottery in Richmond, CA.

If you’ve spent any time in a waiting room, you’re no stranger to seeing magazines with countless mentions of “stealing a celebrity’s look” or getting tips from a “hairstylist to the stars.” For those that like to eat at home, you can now play along with the restaurant diner equivalent by making a trek to the East Bay to visit the “potter to local star chefs.” Who knew filling your cabinets with plates and mugs that many top San Francisco Bay Area restaurants use was so easy?

click to enlarge The warehouse where Jered Nelson creates his pottery. - THE DAPPER DINER
  • The Dapper Diner
  • The warehouse where Jered Nelson creates his pottery.

Anyone who has dined out in San Francisco over the last decade has likely encountered something from Sausalito’s Heath Ceramics. However, when chefs, the food artists they are, want something more unique, they go the custom route, and that’s where Jered Nelson of Jered’s Pottery in Richmond comes into play. The South Dakota native, who grew up on farms and ranches before earning a ceramics degree in Minnesota, allows chefs another dimension to explore when it comes to presenting their food. And do they come knocking — Evan Rich, Daniel Patterson, Jesse Mallgren, Louis Maldonado, Michael Mina, and Michael Chiarello are only a few chefs that have called on Nelson’s craftiness with California clay. Even Restoration Hardware has gotten in on the act with The Wheeler Collection, a series designed by Nelson and manufactured by him and his team in their Richmond location.

click to enlarge A stack of Rich Table seconds at Jered's Pottery. - THE DAPPER DINER
  • The Dapper Diner
  • A stack of Rich Table seconds at Jered's Pottery.

The Richmond warehouse, which is open to the public Monday to Saturday, is a boon for anyone looking to add to their home tableware or for a unique gift. Since each piece is handmade, pieces that are ever so slightly off and do not meet Nelson’s final quality check end up in the reject pile. As it wouldn’t be eco-friendly to throw away something that’s only 99 percent amazing, Nelson sells them as discounted seconds. These are the cups, plates, and bowls that, if they were dogs, would you look at you with sad eyes as Sarah McLachlan sang in the background. It is also where you can get those plates you ate off at Coqueta the other night or those bowls you admired at Rich Table last week. Other restaurant seconds you might find include items made for 1760, Verbena/Reverb, Michael Mina, and Calavera. Of course, if you want something that’s not a second or made for a restaurant, you can also check out Nelson’s newest original collection, the California Line. Confession, I ended up buying a Richmond mug from the California Line on a recent visit.

click to enlarge A couple of cups from Jered Nelson's new California Line. - THE DAPPER DINER
  • The Dapper Diner
  • A couple of cups from Jered Nelson's new California Line.
Nelson explains the process of creating custom pottery for chefs that makes it seem oddly simple, which in turn also demonstrates the amount of respect that flows between creative types. Typically a chef comes with an idea of how they want to plate a dish, either through a sketch or by having Nelson come taste and see the composed course in person. A few suggestions and ideas are batted around, and Nelson designs something which he feels works with the chef’s vision and creates a sample. From there, chef weighs in with suggestions, although from Nelson’s recounting, that does not happen often. That’s to be expected from someone who's thrown over 100,000 pieces during a career that includes four years of making pottery on his own in South Dakota, six years at Heath in California as a prototyper, and five more years on his own again, this time in the East Bay.

For those of you looking to see this chef-potter relationship in the wild, you'll get your chance this Sunday at Healdsburg's h2hotel. Clay with Your Food: The Art of the Plate brings Nelson together with Louis Maldonado, the chef of Spoonbar, to discuss how their collaboration works with a unique opportunity to play with the potter’s wheel. In addition, Nelson will be bringing one of his smaller kilns to fire unfinished plates that Maldonado will then use to cook food via their residual heat. It’s part education and part circus act. Guests are also invited to take home one of the plates, which, according to Nelson, should have an imprint of the dish plated on it, and that makes it way better than anything you will get at Color Me Mine. 

Clay with Your Food: The Art of the Plate, Sunday, Aug. 16, 3-4:30 p.m., at the, h2hotel Green Room and Lawn, 219 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg.
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