The Last Underground Market December 22nd
On Saturday, December 22nd, we will hold the last-ever Underground Market. Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with the Mayan calendar, just that it’s time to put the event to bed.
The Underground Market was an event I started in December of 2009 with the idea to allow myself and a few friends to sell the things that we made, without the red tape and cost of permitting through the city. The market grew, attracting national attention, and soon it was drawing thousands of people every month. Then, following a front page story in the NYTimes, it got shut down.
But the movement had already spread. It spawned other markets, from Boise, Idaho to Amsterdam. It promoted the idea that people should be able to eat food made in their neighbor’s kitchen just as easily as food that’s been trucked in from across the country.
The idea that what makes food safe at the local level is not only inspectors, but the inherent responsibility and care created by the local community. I think we proved that point. With over 50,000 people eating everything from Weber grill fired pizza to pulled pork, there was not one illness reported to the health department. Over 350 home cooks who’ve sold at the market have gone on to start restaurants, catering companies, foodtrucks and sell their products all over the country. It’s been really amazing to witness how hard everyone has worked to make it happen.
Since the market was shut down last year (the rumor is that SF Department of Health was getting pressure from the state level), we haven’t been able to allow new home cooks into the event. Everyone must be permitted, and I have trouble justifying what is “underground” about the market anymore. That’s not to say the food isn’t still great, and what’s been cool about these last few markets is seeing how successful and professional all our returning vendors have become.