SF Food Bank Hunger Challenge 2013: Day 1

On September 21st, central kitchen‘s chef de cuisine, Ryan Pollnow, will be cooking for a cause at the 2nd annual San Francisco & Marin County Food Bank Gala. To achieve perspective and a deeper understanding of the organization and the work they do, Ryan agreed to participate in The Hunger Challenge: for five days, he’ll subsist on a small grocery list of items from the Food Bank’s “pantry” – and a $4.50-a-day food budget.


This is a major change of pace for a person whose job and passion keep him surrounded by amazing food – and tons of it. A typical workday for Ryan might start with a cappuccino and sandwich from Salumeria. At 2pm he usually indulges in an iced latte, and at four he sits down to a “family meal” (prepared for the restaurant’s staff by a different member of the kitchen crew each day) consisting of a salad, one starch or grain, and some sort of protein. At 5:30 he gets ready for service with a shot of espresso, and at the end of the night he usually finds time to sneak a torn hunk of Josey Baker sourdough and Teleme cheese as he shuts down the kitchen. Before heading home, he winds down from the day with a shift drink – usually a Green Flash IPA.

Family meal and a shift drink may be provided by the restaurant, but Ryan’s coffee drinks and sandwich alone total about $20 – nearly his whole budget ($22.50) for the next five days. Ryan is committed to strictly following the Challenge’s rules, and will be giving up everything from his above routine. His one daily Challenge-sanctioned indulgence will be a cup of regular coffee from salumeria.


Today marked the Challenge’s first day. Ryan headed to San Francisco’s Food Bank this morning to meet other participants and pick up his week’s supply of produce: one pound of white rice, two yellow onions, three carrots, four plums, two oranges, two tomatoes, two pears, two baskets of strawberries, four potatoes, six eggs, a cantaloup, and a watermelon.


Back at central kitchen, he devised a shopping list and meal plan for the week, then headed to a local Mission grocery store to pick up a few more items: three chicken thighs, one hamburger patty, two more pounds of rice, a pound of macaroni, garbanzo and kidney beans, a bag of small tortillas, celery, one can of tuna, a lemon, a bag of Romaine hearts, one head of garlic, three zucchinis, two Serrano peppers, and a small can of stewed tomatoes. Originally he wanted to get PB&J supplies for snacks, as well, but once at the store, he discovered that all three components were too expensive for his budget.


All in all, he spent $19.27, leaving him $3.23 leftover for the week. He plans to save it until Friday, the last day of the challenge, and spend it on a celebratory beer.

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