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The Food World's Big Cheese

To call Clark Wolf (B.A., '76) a "foodie" would be the understatement of the century.

Wolf is president of the eponymous Clark Wolf Company, a New York-based food and restaurant consulting firm. Over the course of his career, he has opened countless restaurants, advised dozens of celebrity chefs, and helped shape the dining experience at the Kennedy Center, the Russian Tea Room, Mandalay Bay and Caesars Palace.

From top: Cover of book "American Cheeses," photo of Clark Wolf, quote about Wolf, and photo of various cheeses.Wolf is also a prolific writer. His new book, "American Cheeses: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses, Who Makes Them and Where to Find Them" (Simon & Schuster, ‘08), chronicles benchmark cheeses across the U.S.

"Cheeses of today in our country are characterized by an independence of spirit combined with a respect for tradition and history," says Wolf, whose research found him interviewing cheesemakers from coast to coast. "Twenty years ago our cheeses were terrible; we've come a long way."

In many ways, Wolf's book marks a return to his roots. He was an English major at SF State when he took a job running a cheese shop on San Francisco's Nob Hill, where, he says, he learned volumes about different artisan cheeses from around the world. As manager of a small store, Wolf also learned a thing or two about business. "Those were lessons I never forgot."

Wolf also has never forgotten the art of writing that he learned at SF State. Today, as he splits time between Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood and rural Sonoma County, he writes a number of columns and articles for industry publications.

When asked to draw parallels between food and writing, he says the two have a lot in common. "As the artist, you want to make sure you are telling stories with both," he says. "Otherwise neither experience is fulfilling for the consumer, and that's the goal -- to touch them and make them feel it was worth their time."

With the country embracing foods grown within a 25-mile radius of the point of consumption, Wolf says he is excited about the future of dining. This is why he's chosen to spend half of his time in Sonoma County, which he considers to be the epicenter of the "locavore" (one who tries to eat only locally grown foods) movement. Wolf says he visits the farmer's market in nearby Sebastopol every weekend and is always looking for the freshest local produce to incorporate into his dishes at home.

"I'm encouraged by the fact that people are finally realizing that food does not come out of the back of the truck," he says. "We need to be protective of the Earth and air, not just so we can go for a walk in the Marin Headlands but so that we can have good and fresh wholesome food."

 

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