Design is more than just a visual display; it's about user interaction, how things relate to one another, and the experience it generates. Anand Upender, a chef, creative strategist and digital prototyper, applies these design principles not just to the digital realm but also to the culinary sphere. Through his food pop-ups in San Francisco, Anand creates spaces where people can share stories and develop a sense of belonging over delectable experiences.
The roots of Anand's culinary endeavors run deep into his personal history and cultural heritage, finding inspiration from the flavors and techniques imparted by his grandmothers and mother. As a chef, his recipe development and food styling process often stem from spontaneous experimentation, allowing him to infuse dishes with not just flavors but stories and emotional connections, fostering a sense of warmth and nostalgia with every bite.
An integral part of Anand's journey can be traced back to the York Street Cafe, born from a profound sense of responsibility towards the Mission district in San Francisco. Steeped in the area's history of gentrification and conscious of the evolving community dynamics, Upender sought to make a meaningful contribution. Transitioning his garage into a neighborhood coffee pop-up, he embraced the ethos of communal bonding through the universal language of food, embodying the values imparted by his grandmother.
In August 2022, the culinary scene in San Francisco welcomed the inception of Just Some Folks, a collaborative venture between Anand and his business partner Netta Wang. Beyond a simple pop-up series, Just Some Folks serves as a medium to explore the depths of community gathering and personal identity through experimental culinary delights. Upholding accessibility and affordability, their events aim to evoke a sense of intimacy and nostalgia, akin to sharing a heartfelt meal with close friends.
In their culinary repertoire, the duo constantly creates dishes inspired from Anand's Indian American heritage with innovative twists, such as the 'Indian Summer' rice bowl and the 'Desi Diner' theme. From Gughra, a 'Gujarati grandma-classic' dessert and makeshift saag paneer to khichdi and sesame methi parathas, the duo is known for infusing traditional flavours into contemporary and familiar Asian dishes.
With a mindful approach to sustainability and inclusivity, their meals not only satisfy the taste buds but also serve as conduits for fostering connections, creating an environment where every ingredient holds significance beyond its culinary role. Embracing a humble yet intentional approach, Just Some Folks' culinary philosophy revolves around the belief that food is more than just sustenance; it is a vessel for cultural celebration and community building, a philosophy that continues to resonate throughout their gastronomic endeavours.