Food & Drink

‘Farmer to Fork:’ This 16-year-old is pulling area chefs together to feed farmworkers

This is what Farm to Fork actually looks like

There are a lot of people involved in the process of Farm to Fork. Farm to Fork is a phrase that Sacramentans use a lot now, but not everyone knows exactly what's involved.
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There are a lot of people involved in the process of Farm to Fork. Farm to Fork is a phrase that Sacramentans use a lot now, but not everyone knows exactly what's involved.

Farm-to-fork restaurants around Sacramento spin out beautifully arranged compositions of locally-sourced asparagus, chicken and other ingredients transformed by the region’s cooks. It’s a shame the people who grow that food don’t normally end up at those tables.

So went the thinking of Trinity Perez, who set out to do something about the divide, if only for a night. Perez, a 16-year-old, is organizing a six-course “Farmer To Fork” dinner May 19 at Maya Traditional Mexican Cuisine, free of cost for the 100 area farmworkers she’s invited.

It’s a tall task for someone with limited event planning experience, one made especially difficult by Perez’s challenges getting would-be collaborators to take her seriously. She had been planning the dinner for months by the time she started seeking out chefs, but many were out as soon as they discovered she was barely old enough to drive, she said.

“I was going from restaurant to restaurant and they’d say they were interested and they might be up for it,” Perez said. “Then once they learned I was a high school student, they had no time or they had already made too many donations that year.”

A sophomore at The Met Sacramento charter school, Perez attends traditional classes three days a week and interns all day Tuesdays and Thursdays. She hopes to spend her senior year opening schools for laborers’ children on farms, and eventually start her own nonprofit.

Perez’s grandparents immigrated from the Mexican state of Guanajuato to work as campesinos, or farmworkers, in fields around Sacramento. Though her grandfather eventually became a landscaper, sending Perez’s father and some siblings down the same path, their stories of backbreaking work and tent living made an impression on the 16-year-old.

“I want ... to let (farmworkers) see that the hard work they put into the food they grow turns into exquisite dishes, which they’ll be eating,” Perez said. “It touched my heart to know that I could do something to give them the recognition they deserve.”

In addition to host Danny Maya, chefs Chris Nestor (House Kitchen & Bar), Patrick Mulvaney (Mulvaney’s B&L), Mike Lim (Selland’s Market-Cafe on Broadway) and Steve Gonsalves (formerly of Fat City Bar & Cafe) are signed up for the dinner. All ingredients will either be donated or discounted from local distributors and farms, or brought from the chefs’ kitchens.

The courses scheduled for May 19 are:

Vegan sope (Maya)

Beet, watermelon radish, spring mix and goat cheese salad with citrus vinaigrette (Lim, Gonsalves)

Whitefish and scallop ceviche (Nestor, Maya)

Pork loin with jalapeno jelly, polenta and Bloody Butcher corn (Mulvaney)

Chicken mole and asparagus (Maya)

Banana cream pie (donated by Fat City Inc.)

Maya was the first person to whom Perez reached out, she said. The son of a campesino from Guanajuato himself, his father was essentially forced to forfeit his childhood after being sent to the fields at age 10. Maya was interested in organizing something to thank farmworkers for years, he said, but didn’t act on it until Perez came his way.

“She’s going to be a great leader in the future if she’s starting this young and putting different restaurants together to collaborate on something like this,” Maya said.

After pooling contacts from family, friends and coworkers from her internship at Downtown Sacramento Partnership, Perez began contacting farmworkers. She’s still finalizing the guest list and is accepting ingredient donations at or financial donations on the event’s GoFundMe page.

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Benjy Egel covers local restaurants and bars for The Sacramento Bee as well as general breaking news and investigative projects. A Sacramento native, he previously covered business for the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.