Q&A: A chef who caters to new moms

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Name: Tali Biale

Age: 30

City: Oakland

Position: Owner, Kitchen Doula

Tali Biale

Earlier this year you started Kitchen Doula, a catering company that delivers home-cooked meals to new mothers. How did you get the idea?

Tali Biale: I’ve always loved cooking for people. I’d cooked in a restaurant, but it felt a bit empty. I’d make the food, it would go into the dining room, and I’d never hear about it again. For me cooking has always been a vehicle for caring for people and showing them I love them. Over the last few years, when friends had babies, I thought ‘What can I give them?’ The only thing I could think of was to stock the fridge with food. That planted the seed. You have a baby, and that’s the time nutritious food is exactly what you want to eat, but you have no energy to cook.
What professional food experience did you bring to this endeavor?

I worked as a chef and spent four years as a farmer. So I learned to understand the process of growing food and what goes into animal husbandry.

I love working with local farms. I source all my meat from one farm in Marin. For people who eat meat, I do a lot of soups and stews because they’re so nutrient-dense. I always ask myself how I can create foods that are simple, flavorful and full of the nutrients they need. It’s not about a dish to impress. It’s about an amazing chicken soup. What sort of food do you like to cook?

I don’t cook any one cuisine, but my food tends toward a couple of cuisines. I learned to cook when I spent a semester abroad in Bologna [Italy] during my sophomore year in college. Growing up in Berkeley, we always had great food and great ingredients. I saw how creative and fun cooking could be. I certainly cook Italian food, which is focused on the freshness of the ingredients. My love of fresh vegetables comes from my Israeli side. We lived in Israel when I was a kid.

Your mother, Rachel Biale, is a native Israeli, and your father, David Biale, is a noted Jewish studies professor at U.C. Davis. What was it like growing up in that household?

I grew up in a unique home. My family is staunchly secular in the sense that we’re kibbutzniks. That means Jewish identity and culture for me do not necessarily take place in a synagogue or around specific religious rituals, though we do our own for Shabbat and holidays. Being Jewish was about getting together, having a meal and arguing with everyone else, talking things out. When I would go to [my mother’s] kibbutz in Israel it would be the same: everyone having a big meal and talking over each other. So much of my Jewish identity is wrapped up in this feeling of community.

How did a nice Jewish kid from Berkeley end up working on farms?

A friend had moved to Vermont, and she encouraged me to move there for the summer, where I could get room and board on a farm. I started out on a vegetable and sheep farm and fell in love with the work, as well as the community that grew around the work. We spent the day in the fields working hard, but we always had dinner together. The food was from the fields and our animals, and the eggs from our hens. The following spring I spent at a farm in the Adirondacks. This was a goat dairy, but we also raised pigs, cows and chickens. I stayed there almost three years and moved back to the Bay Area a year ago.

So far, Kitchen Doula (kitchendoula.com) is a small operation. How do you manage?

On certain days, if I’m doing a lot of cooking I might start at 8 a.m. and cook all day. Right now I do the deliveries. A lot of times people invite me in, and they’re so grateful for what I bring them. I love having a few moments to see them. What’s amazing is that here, where there are so many options, there’s still a difference between homemade food and restaurant food. There’s just a different quality of feeling. Not just food that’s nourishing physically, but food that makes them feel taken care of.

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Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.