Spotlight: Eric Fenster, Owner of Gather
Downtown Berkeley Spotlight
Celebrating Our Community
Owner of Gather
“Restaurants bring people together for the simple ritual of breaking bread, celebrating life, and conversing about whatever is on our minds and happening in our world”
Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions for us! Please introduce yourself! What’s your story? Where are you from and what brought you to Downtown Berkeley?
I grew up in New York and was the little kid with very blond hair in the family, so everyone said I was the “California boy”. I guess that stuck because I always dreamed of living in Cali. I went to college at the University of Wisonsin-Madison, studied Environmental Science, and formed a deep love for the natural world. My field biology focus brought me to the jungles of Costa Rica and the high alpine of Colorado where I studied endangered species. While I loved that work, I was moved to spend time in the community and began teaching outdoor education and mountain guiding. This work, and close friends who moved to Berkeley, led me to California. My first job was at the Edible Schoolyard, teaching in the garden program and instilling my love of farm-to-table experiences. In 2001 I had a vision of opening a vibrant, organic restaurant in downtown Berkeley and 8 years later Gather was born!
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the restaurant business?
I believe that restaurants bring people together for the simple ritual of breaking bread, celebrating life, and conversing about whatever is on our minds and happening in our world. I opened Gather to serve & give back to the community; honor & support local, sustainable producers; offer thoughtful, clean food & drink; build a familial team environment; and provide uplifting, memorable experiences for all guests.
Have you had any other roles in a restaurant beside management/owner?
Prior to opening Gather, I ran an organic catering business I started in 2003. At that company, I held all positions from Executive Chef to dishwasher, Event Producer to busser, and everything in between. I had minimal direct restaurant experience but I still believe that catering is even more challenging as we opened and closed over 100 restaurants a year – and sometimes in a beautiful field in the middle of nowhere.
When growing up what kind of pizza did you and/or family eat?
Being from New York I clearly at NY pizza ALL the time! We always believed we had the best pizza in the world. Although it is a completely different style, I believe that Gather’s pizza rivals some of the best pizza I had growing up.
What is your favorite part about owning/managing a restaurant in Downtown Berkeley?
I love my team. I love a busy restaurant. I love that Gather is more than just a restaurant and that we hold our values close to heart with our sourcing and the way we support a variety of inspiring causes in the community.
What are your favorite pizza toppings?
Hmm, I love most anything on a pizza. Honestly, a simple cheese pizza with the right amount of sauce might be my favorite – though add some bacon or sausage on there and I’m a happy man. Recently, the kitchen pumped out a pickle pizza with leek cream and dill and it was surprisingly fantastic. Neil Young came in, tried it, and he was back the very next night for more!
What are your specials that you want readers to know about for Pizza LOVERS Month?
Well, maybe the pickle pizza now that I’ve mentioned it. The team has been having a lot of fun with pizzas lately – there was a pulled chicken pie with caramelized onions, a charred fennel and sausage pizza, and mama lil’s peppers with chevre, parsley, lemon, Reggiano. Whatever we’re doing, it’ll be delicious!
Special thank you to Eric Fenster for his time, expertise, and efforts in creating delicious food for our community.
Head over to Gather to experience first-hand and tell us what you think!