We are a networking group for chefs, food writers, food entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, and others in the food industry who all identify as Jewish in some way. We meet quarterly, more or less, at member-owned establishments to network, shmooze and, of course, eat. Our goal is to support each other, help members form partnerships, offer mentoring opportunities and build community for Jews working in the food industry.
The founder is Alix Wall, an Oakland-based food writer who sees herself as a connector more than anything. You can find out more about Alix here. There is also an advisory board.
Events are held more or less quarterly, with most of them in San Francisco, or the East Bay. We recently had our first meetup in Palo Alto, and have taken summer outings to Healdsburg and Sebastopol.
Before we were the Illuminoshi, we gathered at Charles Chocolates’ old facility in Potrero Hill for a tour and tasting. Our official launch was at Covenant Winery celebrating Joyce Goldstein’s book: The New Mediterranean Jewish Table, where five chefs collaborated on a menu from the book. We’ve had a latke cook-off at the Ferry Building -- which featured everything from everything latkes cooked in duck fat to banh mi latkes to falafel latkes to sweet potato latkes with duck rillettes -- and visited Bohemian Creamery in Sebastopol for a tour and tasting of some of the Bay Area's best cheeses. We toured the new farm-to-table summer camp Eden Village West, Sonoma Brinery and ate pizza made by the Square Pie Guys before they were even the Square Pie Guys at Longboard Vineyards, all in Healdsburg. We’ve been hosted by Urban Adamah, Bardo Lounge and Supper Club for cocktails and appetizers, Old Devil Moon for a beer-tasting, Manny’s, Augie’s Montreal Deli to try Montreal-style smoke meat and The Red Tavern for a traditional Russian banquet. We also had dinner at the old Ba-Bite cooked by some of our Israeli chef members and a lecture about the original Trefa Banquet by SF State professor Rachel Gross, with some of our member chefs cooking their favorite treif dishes at what we called The Trefa Banquet 2.0. Our most recent multiple-chef event was called An evening of JewAsian food and stories and featured dishes like Reuben egg rolls, latkes with Korean banchan toppings, a knish with kimchi inside, "JewMandu," a banh mi with chopped liver and matcha babka bread pudding and black forbidden rice noodle kugel with dried mango compote.
Of course we want to be accessible to everyone. Costs depend on our host. We want our hosts to be fairly compensated for hosting us, yet of course we are happy to receive some kind of discount. We charge a $5 administrative fee on top of what our host charges us. If cost is an issue for you to attend, please let us know and we’ll see what we can do to accommodate.
Reach out to Alix. She always has a running list in her mind of future hosts. If you want to get further involved, great! That is welcome, too.
After three years of running this group, Alix began charging yearly dues in 2018. There is a voluntary membership fee, with the first year free. Alix ran the group for three years without even thinking of charging to belong. But as it has grown and started taking up more of her time, she realized she has no intention of quitting and that many members have really benefitted from belonging. Starting Aug. 1, 2019, membership for one person costs $40 to $80, on a sliding scale.
Members are listed in an online directory that only other paying members have access to. Obviously, the more people who join, the more useful this directory becomes. Members often offer discounts for other Illuminoshi members, but only those who have access to the directory know about them.
At first, Alix came up with "Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals," but she knew that that was more of a descriptor; the group needed a sexier name. She put a call out to the group and then took a vote. Food writer Jim Gladstone came up with the Illuminoshi name, substituting a Yiddish word for food or to eat in place of the "nat." Since the Illuminati was a secret society, Alix changed the second part to the "not-so-secret." As for the logo, it was drawn by Lila Volkas, a very talented culinary illustrator in the group.
There are over 550 people on the mailing list and over 200 have attended events. The list is growing all the time.
There has been interest from others in taking the Illuminoshi to other cities but for a number of reasons, it hasn't happened yet. If you'd like to start a chapter in your city, reach out to Alix and we'll see if it's a good fit.