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The Great Food Cities of the World: San Francisco

Session 6 of a 6-Session Evening Course

Tuesday, June 5, 2018 - 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2945F
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Six distinct world centers of food Bologna, Buenos Aires, London, Lyon, Tokyo, and San Francisco (Top left to Bottom right)

This course can be purchased in full or by session. View the options below:

SPECIAL SALES ADVISORY: As of January 11, 2018, the course's final reception will no longer be available to June 5 session single ticket buyers. The ticket price only includes the San Francisco lecture.

What are the elements that make a city a world gastronomic citadel? In some cases, ready access to superb ingredients and centuries of evolving knowledge about how to use them. In other cases, the specialness of the cuisine is a product of the unique ethnic and cultural blend that results in new flavors and cooking methods. In some cities, cooking traditions are rooted in colonization or conquest, with the conquered often prevailing when it comes to setting the agenda—and the table—as to how people eat.  

Food expert and passionate culinary historian Fred Plotkin has identified six very distinct places that are, in their own ways, world centers of food and drink. Three are the capital cities of their important nations, while the other three are extraordinary in that they are surrounded by superb agricultural resources that influence what food is available and how it is cooked. In every case, these cities promise tantalizingly delicious subject matter for Plotkin’s commentary accented with mouth-watering photos. 

Plotkin is the author of six cookbooks and has been a finalist for the Julia Child and James Beard awards. His food writing has appeared in Gourmet, Bon Appétit, The New York Times, Food & Wine, FT, and Daily Telegraph.


Some people could make the case for New York, New Orleans, or Los Angeles being America’s foremost food city, but San Francisco draws from some of the best farms in the world for its fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy products, along with the bountiful Pacific for fish and seafood. Many of the world’s top wines are made nearby. It is a multi-ethnic city, with prominent Chinese, Italian, and Latino communities contributing their own approaches to the way people cook and eat. San Francisco also excels in classic American food, made better by superb ingredients and knowledgeable cooks.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)