Dear Mom is a bar-restaurant in San Francisco that's pioneering a pop-up chef revolution.
In Huck 44, we get deep into Tommy's Guerrero's past, present and future - much of which goes down in his home city of San Francisco. But what is it about SF that makes it such a hot bed of creativity and free thought? In our Bay Area Blood web series we explore that question, going straight to the beating heart of SF, led by the people who love and know her best.
Thanks in part to a constantly rotating series of takeovers, Dear Mom has become a centre of San Francisco’s food community and a place to discover exciting new food ideas. It’s a rad place to eat and drink any day of the week, but Caroline Hummer and her partner Guillermo open their kitchen up every weekend to chefs big and small to experiment and be creative. Due to their willingness to support interesting food projects and ability to please a diverse crowd Dear Mom is a local institution, respected by chefs and foodies alike. Caroline told Huck why San Francisco is such an exciting place to cook and to eat.
So what’s Dear Mom all about?
Dear Mom is an incredibly diverse bar-restaurant. Techies call it a hipster bar, hipsters call it a Marina bar, Marina folks call it a skate kid bar, skate kids call it a techie bar. A lot of people like to rag on us, but everyone still shows up. We get an extremely large range of ages and types of people in the space. We’ve got upscale bar food, and a pinball machine. Our signature drink is a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of whiskey, but most of our bartenders have worked at some of the best bars in town. We’re all over the place.
How do you make the place inviting to all different types of people?
We don’t do anything! It somehow just works out that way. I guess we just have something for everyone, and a lot of square footage to accommodate them all.
How do the weekend takeovers of Dear Mom by pop-ups and food trucks work?
On Saturday brunches, and Sunday dinners, we clear our staff out of the kitchen and invite interested parties in to cook their own food. They create a special menu for the event, promote it on their own, and make their own food service happen. It’s a good chance for cooks who work for strict chefs to be creative, and for people wondering if they could cook in a real restaurant to learn something.
Why do you feel it’s important to cultivate the grassroots food scene and cultivate new talent?
My partner, Guillermo, and I started out doing pop-ups at Dear Mom. At the time, we had a food truck, and didn’t know what we wanted from Dear Mom other than exposure. Our experiences there led us to setting our sights on taking over the kitchen, which led us to a new and exciting time in our professional careers. Our hope is that everyone else coming in here also realises something new about themselves, their cooking and their goals. Being able to provide someone who has been cooking in an outdoor stand, or a food truck, with a kitchen and bar is a very wonderful thing.
What’s SF’s street food scene like and was running a food truck a good way to learn your craft?
The street scene in SF has been very exciting for the last five years. People starting food trucks in the Bay area are very, very hungry to do their own thing. People in the industry are constantly hustling and trying to stand out from the crowd. It’s extremely hard work, and breeds a very strange and tough cast of characters. You can definitely try some new ideas, but can’t get too crazy–some things just do not sell out of a truck. We learned that the hard way!
How do you feel Dear Mom fits into SF’s food community?
I honestly feel like no one notices what we’re doing. You don’t hear about our pop-ups that much outside of our little inner circle. But, I’m often proven wrong – if our guest chefs work for it, they get the attention they deserve. There’s a few other places doing pop-ups who do more promotion and get more media attention – I don’t know how people find their way here. We do love being a springboard, and people know to come to us, but I don’t feel like we’re doing anything noble. We just have a better kitchen than most pop-up spots!
What makes SF’s food culture unique?
I’m constantly surprised, visiting different major American cities, at how well we’re doing in comparison. Cooking here you can’t take much credit. It’s all about the produce. Good cooks are drawn here because they have more to work with. We’re so lucky to be where we are, simply because we have the tools to make the best food. Creativity springs from the materials.
What’s the future for Dear Mom?
Who knows! I hope we keep doing the pop-ups for a long time, even if Guillermo and I move on. However, I can’t say that I sometimes feel like the whole movement isn’t a fad. It’s very hard work, and usually not very profitable. At some point, I feel like everyone is going to get hip to that. Or, they will and won’t care. It seems that, for most people, the opportunity to do what they want is much more valuable than the $$$.
On Saturday, May 25 Nudnik Foods will be taking over for brunch and Caroline’s favourite pop up Hella Vegan Eats will be serving on Sunday night, May 26. Find out more about all the foodie goings on at Dear Mom.
Our Bay Area Blood web series expands on a feature that originally appeared in Huck 44 – The Tommy Guerrero issue. Grab a copy of the magfor more on Tommy G, San Francisco and culture-shapers of all kinds.