MENDOCINO Co., 3/10/23 – Mendocino County Library is celebrating the life and legacy of Sally Schmitt, famed chef who called Philo her home. Libraries across the county are hosting events ranging from book discussions to seed-saving workshops to showcase the lasting influence Schmitt, who died on March 5, 2022, at the age of 90, has made locally and on a grander culinary scale.
Schmitt founded the gourmet restaurant the French Laundry, in Yountville, and the Apple Farm, her cooking school and farm in Philo. Schmitt’s final project was the cookbook and memoir Six California Kitchens: A Collection of Recipes, Stories, and Cooking Lessons from a Pioneer of California Cuisine, which was released posthumously in April 2022. She left behind a legacy of farm-to-table that defines California cuisine.
The highlight of the event series, which runs from March through May, is a book discussion and tour of the Apple Farm with Schmitt’s daughter, Karen Bates, on March 25.
Here are the details of the celebration from Mendocino County Library:
In 1978, visionary chef Sally Schmitt and her husband Don founded Napa Valley’s trend-setting restaurant, the French Laundry. Thirty years ago, Schmitt wanted to focus on teaching, and she and her husband left the French Laundry and moved to the Apple Farm in Philo. Schmitt transitioned from cooking for others to teaching the full farm-to-table experience to students.
Six California Kitchens commemorates the memorable kitchens of Schmitt’s food-centered life. “It was all wonderful,” said Schmitt in her cookbook and memoir, Six California Kitchens: A Collection of Recipes, Stories, and Cooking Lessons from a Pioneer of California Cuisine. “I didn’t take my apron off for 15 years.”
Schmitt’s daughter Karen Bates, along with Karen’s husband Tim, had been rehabilitating the derelict apple orchard at the Apple Farm and introducing heirloom varieties. Karen stepped in as Schmitt’s teaching assistant while Tim gave tours of the farm. Don poured wine to pair with the food.
The homey tales and enticing recipes of Philo’s Apple Farm are part of Six California Kitchens as well as the inspiration for the Mendocino County Library choosing it as this year’s Mendocino County Reads book. It also gave the library a focus for its spring programming — local food, nutrition literacy, food security, seed libraries, and community gardens. From story times to presentations by local chefs, there is a collection of nutritious options in store at your local branch.
Though Sally Schmitt passed away right before her book was released, her family is celebrating her legacy. Part of that celebration will be a book discussion and farm tour at the Apple Kitchen in Philo on Saturday, March 25th. That and other featured events are listed below.
Six California Kitchens at the Apple Farm in Philo at 18501 Philo Greenwood Road.
- Saturday, March 25th The author’s daughter, Karen Bates, will host the book talk and the farm tour. Local apple juice and cider will be available as well as a tasting of vinegars and syrups at the farm stand.
- 2 – 3 PM – Six California Kitchens book discussion hosted by author’s daughter.
- 3 – 4 PM – Apple Farm tour
- Space is limited, so adults who would like to attend should email Coast Community Branch Librarian Mellisa Hannum at [email protected].
Fort Bragg Branch Library
- Thursday, April 20th, 6 – 7 PM – Discussion with Margaret Fox: Life of a Local Chef. Margaret Fox, who owned Café Beaujolais in Mendocino for 23 years, shares stories from her life as a chef.
Round Valley Branch Library in Covelo
- Thursday, May 25th from 5 – 6:30 PM – Round Valley Branch will host a book discussion on Six California Kitchens.
- Saturday, April 22nd from 11 AM – 4 PM – Round Valley Branch Seed Library will host a seed planting party at the Farmers’ Market.
Ukiah Branch Library
- Saturday, March 11th from 1 – 2 PM – The Ukiah Branch Seed Library will host Kitchen Garden Design with Seed Saving in Mind. Join longtime garden educator Carolyn Brown from Mendocino College’s Agricultural Department, for a comprehensive presentation on garden tips and techniques that will help participants plan their vegetable gardens for harvesting and seed saving. Learn about locally adapted seeds and how they help to create sustainability in our community.
- Saturday, May 6th from 2 – 4 PM – Everyday Herbs with Donna D’Terra.
Willits Branch Library
- Saturday, March 18th from 1 – 4 PM – Willits Branch will host a Spring Seed Swap in the meeting room with vegetable, flower, and herb seeds provided. Staff invite the public to bring seeds to share!
The kitchen in Philo is one of two settings within Mendocino County that Sally talked about in her book. Sally and Don retired to a home in Elk and their cottage kitchen for two was the last one featured in the book. “All in all, I really have done just what I loved to do, which has always been simply to cook good food for those I cared for,” said Schmitt in her memoir. “That’s what mattered. That’s all that mattered.”
The Book-to-Action grant provides participants with a limited number of copies to keep or share with others of Six California Kitchens, and copies of read-alikes for younger readers. Please visit your branch for availability.
Mendocino County Reads is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.For more information about the events being held for Mendocino County Reads: Six California Kitchens, please visit www.mendolibrary.org/events/library-calendar, www.mendolibrary.org, or contact your local branch.