Campsite crayfish boils in New Hampshire and his Nani’s Italian cheesecake are among the fondest food memories from Chris’ childhood. A graduate of Dartmouth College and a onetime financial analyst, he is now an avid home cook with a particular enthusiasm for Japanese cuisine.
Chris’ passion for food has grown steadily throughout his life and particularly after his move to San Francisco in the 1990s. His cooking skills started with the teachings of his parents, bolstered by plenty of cooking classes later on. His happiest kitchen hours are spent cooking Sunday dinners with his wife and three children, hoping to impart life skills and a love of great food to the next generation. Growing up with a mother who became an amazing cook later in life, he is encouraged by the notion that anyone can develop great kitchen skills at any age. Inspired by his wife’s depth of knowledge and quest to have fun while cooking, Chris aims to one day become fearless in the kitchen without the use of recipes.
An avid traveler, Chris finds excitement in experiencing other cultures. His interest in Japan began as a student in the 1980s and he continues to explore its language, backroads, and cuisines. Since his first visit in 2007, he has returned many times to take a deeper dive into Japanese food, focusing on the carefully crafted ingredients he discovers along the way. Beyond his position as The Civic Kitchen’s co-founder, he is also a co-founder of The Japanese Pantry, an importer and purveyor dedicated to bringing artisanal Japanese ingredients to cooks in North America.
Jen Nurse’s passion is teaching home cooks the skills they need to thrive in their own kitchens. She never tires of seeing the excitement on students’ faces as they realize they are mastering something they found mysterious or even feared. Her mission at The Civic Kitchen is creating shared food experiences that remind participants of the joy of working with our hands as well as our minds, taking in the world around us, fostering connection and civility as we learn about and respect each other’s food cultures.
Before opening The Civic Kitchen, Jen led cooking classes for youngsters and adults at Tante Marie’s Cooking School, 18 Reasons, and elementary and middle schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Earlier in life, Jen studied pastry arts at the Art Institute of Seattle after decades as a prolific and curious home cook. She then jettisoned her secure longtime telecommunications career to open an awardwinning boutique bakery in the Seattle area. After relocating to San Francisco, Jen worked as a pastry chef and recipe developer before enrolling in Tante Marie’s professional culinary program to learn more about the savory side of cooking. There she found her deepest love of kitchen work when she began to teach.
Jen credits her mother’s exceptional home cooking (crêpes with Mornay sauce? Go, Mom!), her Aunt Josie’s Argentinian empanadas, and a transformative teenage year in Brescia, Italy with sparking her endless culinary curiosity.