Bridget Batson is the chef at downtown restaurant Gitane, where she creates dishes inspired by the flavors of Spain, Portugal, Southern France and Morocco. In the spirit of giving, she created Thanksgiving Dinner To-Go, where people can pre-order holiday meals to go with a portion of each sale going to Project Open Hand, a nonprofit that provides meals to those in need.
How did you get into cooking?
My culinary career was born out of my desire to have a car! I needed to save money because I wanted wheels and found employment at a restaurant as an after-school job. Now I’ve been in the business for over 20 years after initially going to school for criminal justice.
Is there anyone in particular who motivated you to be a chef?
James Beard, award-winning chef, and Chris Schlesinger, cookbook author and restaurateur with whom I worked at his Blue Room restaurant in Boston. He works hard but never takes himself to seriously.
Have you had to overcome a notable challenge during your career?
The lag time between when I cooked at Hawthorne Lane and I joined the team at Gitane. The San Francisco food scene changed so much, and it was very hard for me to find the perfect fit. I overcame it by trying something I was terrified of: taking the helm of a restaurant that serves a style of food I knew nothing about and managing a group of very young cooks! They see things in a whole different perspective, and we all learn from each other.
Who do you look to for support in tough times?
My husband, who is also a chef, Patrick Kelly of Angele in Napa.
Do you live by any kind of philosophy?
Be honest and fair. You and everyone around you will benefit. I am a firm believer in karma!
Why are nonprofits so important to you?
It’s important to give as much as you take. I feel very lucky to be healthy, happy and able to do what I love for a living, and I feel a responsibility to share my good fortune with folks who need a hand. There are so many opportunities for food-industry workers to donate and serve food and drink at events that benefit good causes. It makes it easy to help others.
What led you to create this meals to-go program?
To me, Thanksgiving is all about connecting with family and friends. A to-go meal eases the pressure of what can become a hectic day and helps people spend less time in the kitchen and more time with each other. It also enables more people to sample my food! A restaurant has a finite number of seats, so there’s a cap on how many bellies you can fill. Our to-go program opens up the door to anyone and everyone who places an order.
Why did you want to benefit Project Open Hand?
I chose Project Open Hand as the to-go meal program beneficiary because of its mission to provide food and nutrition services to people with serious illnesses. Open’s Hand’s credo of “meals with love” parallels my own passion to share my food with people.