California Food Contributors

Episode Description | State Plate Seasons


California Avocado Commission  |  Cristina Samiley

Avocado/Guacamole | Website

As a public relations representative for the California Avocado Commission, Cristina knows her avocados. In fact, many of the organization’s press releases include several recipes made with the rich, flavorful, nutrient-dense fruit. That’s right; avocado is a fruit. Naturally sodium and cholesterol-free, and packed with good fats, avocados also contain nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins, and folic acid. California avocados are hand-grown, nurtured and hand-picked by family farmers, some having farmed the fertile California soil for several generations. In our episode of State Plate, Christina and Taylor will put you in a party mood with a big bowl of tasty guacamole.

Touchdown! Guacamole!

Football fans gear up for the biggest party of the year in February! The big game! What’s in that bowl on the snack table? Guacamole! Fans will enjoy more than 45 million pounds of avocados on Super Bowl Sunday.



Ocean Mist Farms | Chris Drew

Artichoke | Website

In 1924, Italian immigrants, Daniel Pieri and cousins Amerigo and Angelo Del Chiaros formed the California Artichoke & Vegetable Growers Corporation. They leased land south of Castroville, and partnered with local vegetable grower, Alfred Tottino. Their headquarters consisted of a wood and tin shed. No electricity or phone. Contracts were signed by handshake. In 1995, the company was renamed Ocean Mist Farms, now a major farming venture joined by other multi-generation farmers.

Today they are not only the largest grower of fresh artichokes in the country, but they’re still a family-owned operation. With headquarters in Castroville, California, known as “The Artichoke Capitol of the World” and home of the annual Castroville Artichoke Festival, Ocean Mist grows artichokes year-round in three of California’s most fertile farming locations: Castroville, Oxnard and Coachella. They’ve come a long way from the wood and tin shed, and as for electricity, Daniel and his cousins would probably marvel at their industry-leading field-packing and cooling technology and innovative packaging.

In our State Plate episode, Taylor gets to know Chris Drew, VP of Operations at Ocean Mist who will guide you on your adventure

All Choked Up…

What puts the “choke” in “artichoke?” Fuzz! Deep inside the center of the artichoke is a fuzzy layer that covers the heart of the vegetable. This is called the “choke.” Similar to seeds in a melon, the choke is inedible, and you’ll have to carefully scrape it off the cooked artichoke before eating.



Claudio’s Specialty Breads  |  Dario Aguirre

Sourdough Bread | Website

Claudio Cantore grew up surrounded by the aroma of oven-fresh bakery items. As a child he assisted in his father’s bakery, Fratelli Cantore, in S’Antonino di Susa, a small town in the Piedmonte region of Italy.

Today, that family legacy is in the capable hands of his younger brother, and Claudio has expanded the Cantore baking legacy to The United States. A third-generation master baker, specializing in the delicate process of baking sourdough bread, Claudio and wife, Gayle, founded Claudio’s Specialty Breads in Castroville, California in 1990. They are a family-operated, award-winning wholesale bakery. In addition to sourdough, the company produces traditional Italian breads, biscotti, breadsticks and pastries, all made to order, often working with chefs to deliver exactly what they envision on their menus. Between the bakeries in the US and Italy, the Cantore family has been creating delicious baked goods for over 100 years—always family owned and operated.

In our episode of State Plate, Taylor Hicks meets with Dario Aguirre, who will guide him in the fine art of baking Claudio’s famous sourdough bread.

An Ancient Food

Buttered slice of sourdough. Italian bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The next time you bite into a tasty piece of bread, you can thank the ancient Egyptians. Around 3,000 B.C., they invented the oven and discovered yeast leavening.




Phil’s Fish Market  |  Phil DiGirolamo

Cioppino | Website

Who whipped up a heaping bowl of cioppino, took on Chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay—and won? That’s right, Phil DiGirolamo, and now Phil graces your TV screen on INSP’s State Plate, featuring the flavorful fish stew that earns accolades from customers and food critics near and far.

Phil’s Fish Market has been family-owned, an institution with its funky atmosphere and exceptional menu, for more than 30 years, serving a variety of seafood dishes, created from fresh-caught fish in Monterey Bay. Phil credits his grandparents as the inspiration for the most popular item on the menu: cioppino, a hearty meal of Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, squid, scallops and snapper simmered in a heavenly-spiced tomato sauce. His grandfather fished the Monterey Bay for years aboard a small skiff, bringing in an abundance of the bay’s freshest fish. When it was time to eat, all the fishermen threw a sampling of their catch into one big pot, cooked it up and enjoyed. Back at home, his grandmother, Nina, perfected the savory sauce. The blend of fish and sauce is what makes Phil’s delectable cioppino stand out among others. The serving size is big—like Phil’s joyful personality. Not only does he serve his signature cioppino in his restaurant, but customers can take it to go—by the bucket!

In a video, Phil has some advice for people ordering his famous cioppino.

“It’s not a meal that you eat quick and run out. It’s a meal you eat with friends, with your family, you enjoy. It takes you an hour, maybe two hours. And it’s a lot of fun.”

A San Francisco Original

Some people may dispute the year cioppino was first created, but one thing sources can agree on is the location: San Francisco. One source puts the savory stew’s arrival in the late 1800s when Italian immigrants from Genoa settled in the area. While out at sea, fisherman would cook up a meal with “the catch of the day.”  Soon this mouthwatering dish became a staple in the area’s many Italian restaurants.  


Mandelin  |  Kim Vetsch

Almonds | Website

According to a 2002 Los Angeles Times article, Kim and husband Thomas fell in love under an almond tree, and so began the dream of growing almonds. Today they harvest 1,200 acres of sweet almonds for the wholesale market. In addition, Thomas and Kim offer delicious natural and blanched whole almonds, sliced almond, almond flours, sweet almond paste and colorful marzipans for consumers through the farm’s sister company, Mandelin, established in 1994. All Mandelin manufactured produces are Non-GMO, gluten free, Kosher certified and processed without any other nuts, peanuts or food items in their facilities.

To Bee or Not to Bee

Almond trees flower between February and March, but they’re not self-pollinating. They need honey bees (and other pollinators) to move the pollen between the trees and flowers for fertilization. So every spring, almond growers bring in bees from all over the state to start the process. It’s a win-win! The almonds grow, and the bees get a nutritious feast.  


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