Califonia Bountiful

Take it outside

July/August 2018 California Bountiful magazine

Chef's food shines at the table or on the trail

The Picnic Basket's location near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk gives chef Kendra Baker an opportunity to showcase locally grown ingredients to thousands of visitors. Photo: © 2018 Richard Green

Kendra Baker revels in the outdoors, which is one reason she and her husband chose to live in an area known for its beaches and redwood-forested mountains.

"We love to hike and bring our snacks and picnic along the way. We also do a lot of camping," the Santa Cruz woman said.

But Baker is a chef, so outdoor adventures with her husband and two young sons aren't likely to end with hot dogs at the campfire: "My husband sometimes jokes, 'Why can't we do simple camping food?' But I really enjoy cooking and it's fun to plan different meals when we're out doing those kind of things."

That's a boon to patrons of The Picnic Basket, where Baker and business partner Zachary Davis highlight locally sourced ingredients in fare that practically begs to be eaten outside—from house-marinated olives to chicken salad sandwiches embellished with turmeric pickled onions.

"We're making classic recipes, but with small, simple twists that people can enjoy and share on their picnics," Baker said.

Creating menus that reflect and pay tribute to the area's rich agricultural heritage serves as the foundation for Baker and Davis' restaurant group, which also includes Assembly and The Penny Ice Creamery. In fact, Santa Cruz's proximity to a variety of organic farms is another reason Baker chose the area as home for her family and business ventures.

"It's fun talking with farmers, as the new season is approaching, about what they're growing that they're excited about and what they think would be a good fit for us," she said. "Each season, I'm renewed and excited by the new possibilities we'll be creating."

Barbara Arciero


Frittata with zucchini, kale and potatoes

Marinated olives

Tomato corn salad with feta and wheat berries

Roasted chicken salad sandwich with avocado, lettuces and pickled onions

Chocolate pot de crème with fresh strawberries

Charred summer chiles and cucumbers with herbs and tahini

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