Only just 18, Elazar Sontag is still in high school, in Oakland, California. Yet, his creativity and passion have already given birth to an amazing resume. Distilling the traditions of Northern California’s East Bay -- Berkeley and neighboring Oakland are considered Ground Zero of social activism and the foodie movement, both of which took off there in the 60’s and 70’s – Elazar has worked in the kitchens of several of Oakland’s hippest restaurants, and teaches kids to cook at a culinary program in nearby Emeryville. He’s also publishing his second cookbook, Flavors of Oakland, with a photographer friend he got to know over Snapchat.
Sontag is passionate about his craft and about community building in Oakland. The book he has co-created with Anya Ku, a junior in college at nearby UC Berkeley, is “as much of a storybook as a cookbook,” he says. “We want to encourage people to cross racial boundaries and realize that we have more in common than we have differences,” Ku adds.
"People gave us such amazing stories," Sontag says. "We've tried to convey in book form what it's like to sit down to dinner with 20 different Oakland home cooks from 20 different cultures. It's a portrait of what we think is beautiful about Oakland."
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A secure world.
What is your greatest fear?
Lack of motivation.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Criticism of the easily critique-able.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Lack of interest in the new or unfamiliar.
Which living person do you most admire?
My mother/ my father. My role models from the kitchen to the classroom. I admire shamelessly and often.
What is your greatest extravagance?
True Religion brand jeans.
What is your current state of mind?
Perplexed and excited.
On what occasion do you lie?
A sticky one.
Which living person do you most despise?
In America-- Donald Trump.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Thoughtfulness and intelligence.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"I can't hang out today, I'm taking a hike with my mom."
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Food. A relationship with myself and the outside world that is more personal and important to me than any other.
When and where were you happiest?
Vermont. The summers of my younger childhood.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Confidence in my ability to learn and adapt.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Flavors of Oakland.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A lemon poppy seed muffin.
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
My necklaces, each of which was given to me by a family member or loved one.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Loneliness and confusion.
Who is your favorite writer?
Who is your hero of fiction?
What is it that you most dislike?
Fear and uncertainty.
What is your greatest regret?
Not going to sleep away camp as a kid.
How would you like to die?
I would really rather not.
What is your motto?
"Good food is like music you can taste, color you can smell." -August Gustea