As a specialty food and wine retailer, importer, and distributor in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1980s and 1990s, Roberta Klugman actively participated and keenly observed what is now recognized as the American culinary renaissance. For several years she served as executive director of The American Institute of Wine & Food. Founding Klugman & Associates in 2001, she develops and implements strategic communications, events, and educational programs for the food and wine industry.

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1. When did you first decide you wanted to make food your career?
In the early 1980s while working at Narsai’s Market in Kensington (north Berkeley).

2. How did you get where you are today in the food business?
The first part was realizing that I so enjoyed working with food and discovered it could be a profession, a career and not limited to just restaurants. Always learning and being curious about foodways, culture and cuisine kept opening new opportunities.

3. What is your favorite food experience?
I have been fortunate that there are so many food experiences that continue to make me smile. reminding me of where I was, the tastes, aromas, and who was there. I point to the early Tastings of Summer Produce back around 1986 at the Oakland Museum (though this was not first but rather the first one I attended). That tasting –the range of tomatoes, purple potatoes, golden raspberries, and the dinner with grilled peaches combined with the gathering of such passionate people–was like no other food experience. And of course, now we have such fabulous produce readily available and year around. Thank you Sibella Kraus!

And what about that “a ha!” moment when I first tasted a Cocolat truffle? Thank you Alice Medrich!

4. If you had one last meal, what would it be?
Something my mother made. I have such fond memories of creamed asparagus (canned or frozen, no fresh asparagus in the frozen north) on toast—always whole wheat—and her chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting.

5. What is the most exciting thing going on in food right now, in your opinion?
The knowledge that people from all walks of life have about food, wine, beer and the interest/appreciation they have. Also the quest for growing and producing good, better food is happening throughout the nation and world.

6. What advice do you have for young people who wanted a career in food?
Figure out what you like, what you like to do and learn as much as you can, keep tasting and become a better writer. Learn how to write well.

7. What condiment is always in your refrigerator?
Colatura –Italian fish sauce, truly the essence of anchovy. I add, I always have a big wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano in the fridge.

8. What was your first cookbook?
The first cookbook I bought was The Art of Greek Cookery by the Woman of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church based on the “The Grecian Gourmet.”
And yes, that is the full title on the cover.

9. What cookbook could not live without?
Rosetta Costantino’s and Janet Fletcher’s My Calabria. Though I do find myself returning to the Joy of Cooking (my second cookbook) and specific subject books. By the way, I have a cookbook library nearing 1,500 volumes.

10. What is your go-to recipe for entertaining?
I most often will do some sort of risotto, especially around fava bean and asparagus time of year. In the winter, it is with mushrooms and the occasional white truffle.

11. Where do you shop for food?
Rockridge Market Hall covers all my food and wine shopping needs, augmented by the Farmer’s Market and Three Stone Hearth.

12. What are you working on today and how will it impact your career/business?
At this stage of my career, it is more about helping those with whom I work, to accomplish their objectives and help set/meet career goals.

13. Are you involved with a food non-profit? If so, which one and what do you do?
I co-chair the Les Dames d’Escoffier San Francisco Chapter Karola Saekel Craib Excellence in Food Journalism Fellowship. Each year, since 2010, we present a no-strings-attached financial award, now at $2500. I also co-chair the Good Food Awards Oil Committee.

14. What chefs or blogs do you follow?
Janet Fletcher’s Planet Cheese, anything Anissa Helou writes or posts, David Lebovitz, Rosetta Costantino, Cooking with Rosetta, Melissa Clark.

15. What project are you working on now?
A lot of my work revolves around olive oil and educating about extra virgin olive oil. I also have a great project around Robin Sloan’s new novel, SOURDOUGH.

16. Have you held SFPFS board positions in the past?
YES! I was the very first Scholarship Chair, followed by Special Events Chair, Program Chair, and President in 1992.

17. What have you gained  from being a member of the SFPFS?
As a newcomer to the food profession, back in 1984 or so, joining the SFPFS meant I was a food professional. The board and members were welcoming and supportive. The programs and events were geared to educating, networking, and bettering the profession. I am proud to have both participated and contributed. I treasure the friendships and professional relationships made over the past 30 + years.

More information about the Karola Saekel Craib Excellence in Food Journalism Fellowship is available HERE.

Other websites of interest to Roberta: markethallfoods.comsekahills.com and bondolio.com.