Volunteer of the Month: Julie Hess

January 14, 2016

CUESA’s Volunteer of the Month program recognizes the dedication and work of some of our most active volunteers. CUESA relies on volunteers to help with education programs, special events, public outreach, and other activities that help fulfill our mission to cultivate a sustainable food system. Learn more about volunteering and sign up here.

Come early to the CUESA Info Booth at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on a Saturday, and you may well find Julie Hess at the CUESA Info Booth ready to warmly assist you in the chilly morning haze. A catering and hospitality professional from Chicago, she started volunteering for CUESA in 2011, when she moved to San Francisco. “I knew there was a vibrant food community in the Bay Area, and CUESA was a great way for me to get involved,” says Julie.

Her genuine concern about the provenance and quality of ingredients combined with her welcoming nature has made her an invaluable regular volunteer at our market. “Julie is a super knowledgeable and calm Info Booth volunteer,” says Sarah Wong, CUESA’s Info Booth Coordinator. “She always greets people and answers their plethora of questions in a friendly, personable manner.” Meet Julie.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?
Julie: I’ve had an interest in food and hospitality for as long as I can remember, and I’ve managed to turn that interest into a career in catering. The chef-owner of one of the first catering companies I worked for in Chicago really inspired me to think beyond the food itself, and become more mindful about sustainability, and the origins and ethics behind the food we eat. He continues to be an inspiration, mentor, and friend. When I moved to San Francisco, I knew that CUESA would be a great resource for me professionally, and the volunteer opportunities also happen to be a lot of fun.  The Info Booth is such a natural fit for me because not only do I get to be around beautiful, seasonal food, but there is also an element of hospitality in that I get to engage with and assist market visitors, chefs, farmers, and vendors. It’s so wonderful to be able to share my passion with other like-minded people. 

CUESA: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CUESA?
Julie: I work as an event planner for LRE Catering. Work aside, you can usually find me playing in Golden Gate Park with my husband and our Wheaten terrier. I love experimenting in my own kitchen; I’m constantly trying out new recipes to share with friends and family.

CUESA: What is your favorite part about volunteering with CUESA?
Julie: My favorite part about volunteering with CUESA is the sense of community it has created for me. I didn’t know very many people when I moved to the Bay Area and the volunteer program was the first place I felt like I truly belonged. I’ve met so many wonderful people over the years, between the CUESA staff, other volunteers, and friends and patrons of the market. It’s just a really special place for me. I also love the energy of the early Saturday morning shift, when the chefs and the regulars do their shopping. The morning light on the Bay is pretty spectacular, too. 

CUESA: Do you have an insider market tip or a favorite produce item at the market right now?
Julie: I’m full of tips for market visitors. Ask me about anything: recipes recommendations, CSA subscriptions, where to find the best peaches in the summertime. I always have plenty of seasonal favorites to suggest, too.  As for produce, you can get delicious greens year around, but the hearty winter ones are especially good. I also eat a lot of fruit, and I can’t get enough pomegranates and persimmons. Aside from those winter-specific items, my shopping bag almost always contains dates from Flying Disc Ranch, and a good pastry. I’m a sucker for Craftsman and Wolves or Della Fattoria. The most frequent inquiry I get at the Info Booth from visitors is where to find the best breakfast at the market. For me, it’s any of the open-faced smoked fish sandwiches on fresh Acme sourdough from Cap’n Mike’s. A close second is the Okonomiyaki from Namu, which has inspired me to perfect my own version at home.