Napa’s Chefs’ Market – Season Begins Thursday, May 17, 5 to 9 p.m.
Regardless of when summer starts anywhere else on the planet, it begins in Napa on the opening night of Chefs’ Market, arguably the most well-loved, mid-week market in the state. Now in its 18th year, Chefs’ Market is a free, weekly, outdoor street festival. It features six blocks of family entertainment, including three stages of music, a block-long farmers’ market, two chefs’ demonstrations, activities for the kids, arts and crafts, beer & wine, and more good food than you can shake a stick at.
“Last year, we added the ‘Truck Stop’ on Randolph, featuring food trucks, oven-baked pizza, NY style franks, and lots of other great food that people loved,” said Julie Morales, from the Downtown Napa Association, the person most responsible for keeping Chefs’ Market fresh and interesting every year. “This year, we have even more in mind.”
“More” is the key word that drives Morales and her partner-in-planning, Nikki Guardino, who is a key part of the Market staff. Chefs’ Market has always been for the community, but Morales and Guardino have cooked up a couple of ways to help schools and non-profits as never before.
The new “School of the Week” program involves having a different school at the Market, manning a booth to showcase their school. They will also host a fun activity for the children attending. Donations from new Chefs’ Market sponsors, Red Dragon Martial Arts and Napa Pediatric will enable the schools to both offer the activity free of charge, and help them make money for any programs that
could use support.
A similar weekly program will feature a “Non-Profit of the Week.” Different service clubs will man a wine booth, splitting the proceeds with a designated non-profit group. This will mean two groups benefit each week.
The only time Morales and Guardino think “Less” is when it comes to garbage, which they want to keep to a minimum. “We have a ‘GO GREEN’ Team in place this year,” said Morales. “Paul Bartelt, troop leader of Boy Scout Troop 83, the largest troop in Napa Valley, will have over 60 Scouts available to make sure that the only thing that gets thrown away is trash. Everything else will get recycled or composted.”
This will also be the first time that dogs are not allowed at Chefs’ Market. “It’s actually the law, and always has been,” said Morales. “State law says that dogs are not allowed within 20 feet of food, including farmers’ markets.” It’s an issue organizers have never strictly enforced. For the past ten years, “No Dogs” signs have been at the entrances of the Market. Staff approached people and asked them not to bring their pet the next time they attended, but the number of dogs gets larger every year. “We’ve erred on the side of being ‘good guys,’ instead of obeying the law” said Morales. “We can’t run the risk of having the Market shut down.”
The fact that dogs aren’t allowed at the Market will come as a surprise to some people who are unaware that the law prohibits their attendance. Some attendees are in the habit of going for a walk with the family, including the dog, and stopping by the Market to pick up vegetables for the week, or maybe a beer and turkey leg. Morales doesn’t want them to show up and be turned away from entering. “We’ll set up a couple of tables at Main and First so that, while one family member stays there with the dog, others can roam the Market.”
Chefs’ Market would not be possible without the generous support from sponsors, including the Napa Valley Marketplace, Blue Moon Brewery, Wells Fargo Bank, Kaiser Permanente, Team Superstores of Vallejo, The Bohemian, The San Francisco Chronicle and Xfinity.
Enjoy the Market. The musical line-up alone is a good reason to come out this year. Opening night acts include the Pandemonium Steel Drum band, always a crowd favorite. Chefs’ Market is the best bet for a fun night, and it’s always free.