4 East Bay food companies up for Work Local Awards

Paul Canales of Duende. Photo: Tracey Taylor
Paul Canales’s Oakland restaurant Duende has been nominated for the Best Food and Drink Employer award in the Localwise 2016 Work Local Awards. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Localwise, a job board created by UC Berkeley alums Benjamin Hamlin and Maya Tobias, is honoring well-regarded local businesses with its inaugural 2016 Work Local Awards. Four East Bay food businesses — Duende, The Local Butcher Shop, As You Wish Frozen Yogurt and The Town Kitchen — have received finalist nods out of a pool of over 1,000 nominations from the Localwise community. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony April 28.

Oakland’s Duende is nominated for Best Employer: Food and Drink along with Mountain View’s Freeland Foods and San Francisco’s The Hidden Vine Wine Bar.

Duende opened near to Uptown’s Fox Theater in 2013, serving regional Spanish cuisine made from local, sustainable ingredients. Chef and owner Paul Canales told Nosh that year that the success of his restaurant would depend on teamwork. “The restaurant would only be amazing if it came about through collaboration,” he said. “We are all limited by the extent of our own creativity.”

Indeed, a commenter on Localwise said: “The close relationship between the owner, managers and staff [at Duende] creates a work environment of equals; every voice is heard. The folks here are solid.”


Aaron and Monica Rocchino: their goal is to bring restaurant quality meat to the home cook
Aaron and Monica Rocchino’s Local Butcher Shop is nominated for the Best Retailer award. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The Local Butcher Shop received a nomination in the Best Employer: Retail category. It shares the honor with Ambiance, a San Francisco clothing store, and Modern Mouse, an online gift store.

The sustainable butcher shop has been open since 2011 in North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto and is not a stranger to home-grown awards. It received a 2015 Good Food Award for its house-made coppa di testa.

On the Localwise website, an employee commenter wrote: “[Owners] Aaron and Monica [Rocchino] have shown me what it looks like to genuinely care about their staff and their footprint in the community while simultaneously keeping a thriving business. They know each and every one of us on a personal level and make sure we feel heard while also constantly teaching us and holding a high standard of quality.”

Abraham and Bonnee Elterman. Photo courtesy: Sam Alcabes
Abraham and Bonnee Elterman of As You Wish Frozen Yogurt have been nominated for a Best Manager award. Photo courtesy: Sam Alcabes

In Albany, the owners of As You Wish Frozen Yogurt have been nominated for the Best Manager award along with the owners of Friedman Brueggemeyer Design Build and the nonprofit For Richmond.

Bonne and Abraham Elterman’s frozen yogurt joint is a popular neighborhood spot, garnering Yelp reviews that call their yogurt “perfect” and “delicious.” Employees seem to like working there as much as customers like the yogurt; a commenter on Localwise wrote: “I’ve had many employers over the years, and Bonnee and Abraham Elterman are among the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. They do not micromanage, they seek our input, they do not hesitate to work the front lines.”

Finally, Oakland’s The Town Kitchen got a nod for the Most Community-Oriented Employer award. Field Day, a clothing company, and Root & Stem Integrative Chinese Medicine are also nominated.

Volunteers working at The Town Kitchen. Photo: The Town Kitchen/Facebook
Volunteers working at The Town Kitchen, which received a nomination for the Most Community-Oriented Employer award. Photo: The Town Kitchen/Facebook

The Town Kitchen, which is based out of the Port Kitchens, makes “chef-crafted” box lunches, and it employs and trains local youth through its Youth Fellows program. It also partners with the local nonprofit educational organization I-SEEED as well as Mamacitas Café.

Co-founder and CEO Sabrina Mutukisna garnered praise on the Localwise website for her efforts to “revolution[ize] local food by centering the young people of our community in her business model, at a time when so many tech companies are seeking to come into Oakland without the same thoughtfulness. She not only gives young people an opportunity to work, learn, and build their careers — but the food they create is of the highest quality.”

TheWork Local Awards winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at The Port Kaiser Center on April 28, 6:30-8:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $25. Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of the Work Local Awards.

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