Tag Archives: Semifreddi’s

Semifreddi’s Café on Claremont Avenue to close

Semifreddi's at 3084 Claremont Avenue will close Sept. 30. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Print Friendly

Semifreddi’s Café on Claremont Avenue, a decades-long mainstay for cinnamon bread, baguettes, hot panini, coffee and hot chocolate, will shut its doors Sept. 30.

Tom Frainier, Semifreddi’s president, said several factors led to the decision to close but that sales were not the problem. The lease was coming up for renewal and the rental rate was going up. On top of that, hourly wages are on the upswing.

“We decided it would be increasingly difficult to make money at that location,” he said. He added that it is getting harder and harder to find workers. “We looked at the future and how it’s going to progress. It’s going to be hard for independent cafés to make it long term.”

The closure leaves one Semifreddi’s retail outlet, on Colusa Avenue in Kensington. The Emeryville outlet on Hollis Street closed in 2009.

No employees will be displaced, Frainier said, because several were heading back to college anyway. Others left voluntarily because they did not want to work at the bakery’s Kensington café.
Continue reading »


The Bread Project returns to Berkeley this fall

The Bread Project has moved to 1615 University Ave. (at California). Photo: Kate Williams
Print Friendly

The Crayola-blue storefront at 1615 University Ave. has stood empty for three years, slowly collecting window graffiti and dust. But this June, signs of life began to appear. Baking racks appeared in the windows. Long wooden work tables filled the room. Soon, a sign appeared on the front door: The Bread Project is moving in.

Founded in 2001 by Lucie Buchbinder and Susan Phillips, The Bread Project trains low-income individuals in food service skills — specifically baking —  and helps them find and retain jobs across the service and culinary industry. Its students come from many walks of life. About 30% are formerly incarcerated individuals, 20% are refugees and new immigrants and others that have other significant barriers to employment. “Everybody is starting over, starting anew,” said Valerie Afroilan, the senior director of programs. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

A baker’s moment: Semifreddi’s celebrates 30 years

Tom Frainier, 'Chief Bootlicker"(aka CEO) at Semifreddi's. Photo: Pete Rosos
Print Friendly

Tom Frainier likes to cuddle a freshly baked loaf at his Semifreddi’s bakery and exclaim, “Bread is sexy.”

Frainier’s passion for making a beautiful and delicious foodstuff based on the ancient art of fermenting grain is evident. The idea of creating many jobs also excites him.

“We are the offensive linemen of the food world and not the celebrity chefs,” the Semifreddi’s CEO said recently. “Every day the team grinds out what has been made for thousands of years. Our business mission has evolved from ‘take care of the customer’ into ‘take care of our employees.”

This is a man whose business card reads: ‘Chief Bootlicker.’ … Continue reading »

Tagged ,

Meals on Wheels supporters feast for a cause

From Pican Chef Sophina Uong: Hickory smokes sturgeon with lemon cream, sweat pea puree, sorghum gastrique, tarragon and popped sorghum seed. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

Supporters of Alameda County’s Meals on Wheels program came out in droves last Friday night to Oakland’s Scottish Rite Center to raise money for the agency, which feeds homebound seniors throughout the county.

Organizers announced Thursday that a total of $225,000 was raised, via auctions and donations throughout the night.

The event, dubbed “Five Star Night,” was Meals on Wheels’ 26th annual benefit. Berkeleyside Nosh proud to sponsor the event. Attendees heard stories about how the agency’s work benefits seniors, both through providing nutritional meals — more than 2,100 warm meals each weekday — and also by offering social interaction with volunteers who deliver the food. This year in particular, the non-profit reported needing more help than ever, according to agency Executive Director Cindy Houts: “With the potential for sequester cuts, funding for 50,000 meals might be cut,” she said. “We need to be ready to fill that gap.” (Scroll down to see photographs from the event.) … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Everyone deserves to eat: Andre Green’s kitchen wisdom

Print Friendly

Andre Green’s mission is both simple and heartfelt: no one should go hungry. It’s a mantra that has worked for him in his more than seven years serving food to the homeless and poor.

After a long stint in the kitchen at the East Oakland Community Project, Green began cooking for Berkeley’s most vulnerable residents on Valentine’s Day this year, as the new food services coordinator for Berkeley Food & Housing Project. The non-profit group serves hot meals to homeless men, women, and children from food purchased from the Alameda County Community Food Bank and wholesale grocery stores, along with donations from individuals, organizations, and businesses. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Bread Project: Cooking up a future for people in need

In the kitchen with The Bread Project students. Photo: Courtesy of the Bread Project
Print Friendly

Pat Van Valkenburgh is the kind of person that The Bread Project hopes to help. A stay-at-home mom who home-schooled her two children until they attended Berkeley High School, Van Valkenburgh desperately needed a job when her construction worker husband became unemployed. Since she enjoyed cooking, she thought the nonprofit’s nine-week café training program, which focuses on basic kitchen, food service, and barista skills, was a good fit and would help her find a job in the restaurant industry.

Van Valkenburgh didn’t have to look far for work: she was snapped up by the organization to manage the café it runs out of the Berkeley Adult School, where the program for low-income job seekers, started by Susan Phillips and Lucie Buchbinder in 2000, has been housed since 2003.

The part-time gig has made all the difference during tough economic times; Van Valkenburgh’s family has held on to their home and health insurance. (Both her kids, who attended the Academic Choice School at BHS, currently study at local community colleges and intend to transfer to UC.) … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

Dense, airy, crusty or soft: Berkeley’s best baguettes

Baguette ranking
Print Friendly

As a child growing up in Berkeley, I’ve only tasted pre-sliced bread twice. When I was younger, my family traveled to Europe and I got to eat real French baguettes. Today, we live a few blocks from a bakery and get fresh bread every morning, like many Berkeley residents.

Our city is filled with world-class bakeries ranging from La Farine in north Berkeley to the Bread Garden near the Claremont hotel — and everything in between.

Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,