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Four years after joining Berkeleyside as Nosh Editor, Sarah Han is leaving Cityside Journalism Initiative, the nonprofit that also houses The Oaklandside, to pursue a writing career outside food journalism.
The value Han has brought to our community of readers cannot be overstated. Readers made clear their appreciation for Nosh on a daily basis, and we look forward to maintaining the standards she set for food coverage going forward.
Right from the start, Han set out to tell the stories that weren’t being told and to introduce readers to the myriad people who craft the food and run the restaurants, bars and coffee shops that make up our enviably vibrant local food scene.
“Han took our Nosh coverage to a new high, through Berkeleyisde, and, more recently, The Oaklandside, both in terms of the quality and diversity of its reporting,” said Berkeleyside and Cityside co-founder Tracey Taylor. “Much of this is down to her voice, which speaks eloquently of her love for, and understanding of food, her deep knowledge of the East Bay food scene, her beautiful writing style and her instinct for a good story.”
“Even in the short time I have worked with Han I have grown to appreciate her professionalism and tremendous work ethic. It’s no surprise to me that the NorCal chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recognized Han in 2020 with an excellence in journalism award for Nosh. She has set the bar high,” said Berkeleyside editor-in-chief Pamela Turntine.
“It was a real honor to lead Cityside’s coverage of the East Bay food scene for the past four years,” said Han. “My favorite part of the job — aside from getting to try all the delicious food in the area — was talking to the hard-working folks in the industry and sharing their stories. During the pandemic, this was especially important to me, but even before COVID-19, my number one priority as Nosh editor was shining a light on more people who might not normally be featured in food publications. I will miss so much about the job, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how Nosh will evolve under new leadership.”
Han had a particular aptitude for seeking and writing stories about under-the-radar food businesses, such as beloved, longstanding neighborhood restaurants that are often forgotten in the rush to discover the “hot new thing.”
She told compelling, often intimate human stories, profiling chefs and food-makers, often from immigrant communities, who are both making delicious food and creating community around it . Such was the case with her profile of Rashad Armstead, the chef behind Crave BBQ, who spoke to her about the toll on his mental health of trying to get a brick-and-mortar restaurant financed on the back of his successful pop-up.
Han applied her extensive culinary expertise to craft authoritative reviews. Take her account of a visit to a modest dumpling restaurant in El Cerrito opened by a family with no restaurant experience. The place was buzzing for weeks afterward. Her lovely review of the two-year-old lunch service at a West Berkeley pickle shop came about after a chance encounter on a dog walk and proved to be a revelation to many, prompting a rush of eager new customers to the 24-year-old establishment.
Reporting that made an impact
And Han’s reporting has had an undeniable impact. In August 2019, she interviewed Nick Cho who was on the cusp of opening a new cafe in the North Berkeley neighborhood known as the “Gourmet Ghetto.” Cho told Han that, if it were up to him, there would be no such name, and that he planned to lobby the city to get rid of the designation because of what he saw as the racially charged connotation of the word “ghetto.” The story prompted a lively conversation in the Nosh comments, on social media and in op-eds submitted to Nosh. It was picked up by local and national media, including by The Guardian and The New York Times. In a follow-up piece, Han spoke to Alice Waters, whose restaurant, Chez Panisse, was partly responsible for the creation of the controversial moniker. Waters conceded she now thought the name should be dropped.
And dropped it was: less than a month after Han’s first story was published, the North Shattuck Association voted to stop using the name and banners bearing the words Gourmet Ghetto were taken down across the district.
Before recruiting Han’s replacement, Cityside is taking the opportunity to do a strategic audit of Nosh to ensure we serve its large and loyal audience in the best way possible. As part of that deep dive, we will be asking readers what they love and what they’d like to see covered in the future, so watch out for a survey coming your way soon.
In the meantime, we are delighted that Eve Batey, a long-time writer and editor who was most recently the editor of Eater SF, has picked up the Nosh reins for the next few months. On her first day on the job, Batey has already shared the news that Alice Waters is opening a new restaurant. Reach Batey with your tips or East Bay food-related news through our tips form (select Nosh as the topic) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.