This nonfiction graphic novel tells the story of Bill Fujimoto, a Japanese-American food retailer who played a pivotal role in the development of 1970s California cuisine. Through his influence on California cuisine, he has changed how Americans eat.
Today, Americans are more aware than ever of their food choices—where the food comes from, its locality, how it was produced, and its health quotient. But back in the 1970s, local food movements were largely nonexistent. Throughout the 1900s and present day, many Japanese American farmers and food retailers in California put forth innovative practices that implemented and supported organic, local farming and farm-to-table eating in a time when corporate farming and supermarket chains were dominant. They followed and carried out an ideology that is more than just the taste of the food but encompasses what eating locally produced, seasonal food means. Thus, they have helped others in their communities to imagine a radical, more equitable, community centered world where food production is healthier, more sustainable, and controlled by small farmers.
Berkeley-based Fujimoto was the first person to source produce for Alice Waters’ restaurant Chez Panisse when it opened. Over time, the Bay Area chefs who were a part of igniting California cuisine all went to Bill’s shop to buy their produce. He created a community of chefs, local farmers, and eaters who cared about seasonality, taste, and unconventional produce. He inspired and allowed California cuisine chefs in the Bay Area to carry out their philosophies of fresh, local produce.