Food Runners

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Family Affair

By Trudi Michael, Volunteer
On-Call Runner
The Michael Family (clockwise from left): Joe, Trudi, Cecile
My connection with Food Runners goes way back. At some point in the early 90’s, my dad Joe Michael was approaching retirement and started taking cooking classes at Tante Marie’s Cooking School to fill his time and expand his already sharp culinary skills. He soon met Mary Risley and promptly fell under her spell, as one is apt to do. In no time at all, she had him onboard and fully committed to being one of her first Food Runners. Meanwhile, I also met Mary at Tante Marie’s, which was just up the street from Williams-Sonoma’s headquarters where I worked off-and-off for almost two decades. Mary was a long time close friend of Chuck Williams, so we frequented the school for team-building events and special celebrations.
                    Chuck Williams                                                         Mary Risley
Joe had a regular food run, picking up from Il Fornaio, which was a fixture for decades along the Embarcadero until it closed late last year. The restaurant and bakery was on the way home from the South End Rowing Club in Aquatic Park, where Joe was a member and swam every day before dawn, regardless of the water temperatures. He would fill his car with dozens of leftover breads and pastries and head to Martin de Porres to drop them off, most likely taking a nibble en route. Folks would often gather there, awaiting his arrival and knowing that top-notched baked goods would round out their morning meal. This routine carried on for about 20 years until Joe passed away in 2011.

That year I lost my dad and my job within a few months of each other. To put it mildly, I was a hot mess and was desperate for something meaningful to not only occupy my day, but also provide me with a sense of purpose and renewal. Somehow I put it together and realized that becoming a Food Runner was the perfect solution. I could carry on my dad’s legacy while doing good for the SF community, providing food to those in need and feeding my soul at the same time.

These days, Food Runners is still a family affair. As a long time supporter of the organization, my mom Cecile regularly attends donor appreciation dinners at Mary’s house, and I join for the volunteer parties. After many years of having a weekly run, I’ve switched to being a floater, picking up runs here and there as my schedule allows. Regardless of the route or the people I encounter along the way, running food always reminds me of Joe, bringing me back to him again and again.