Coffee baristas don’t get enough respect.

Savannah Phillips thinks the folks who make your coffee deserve the same type of attention and admiration as the chefs making your food.

“It should be seen as a culinary experience,” she said. “It’s important that we further the industry and raise the bar of professionalism and make it seen as something that isn’t just someone in holey jeans just throwing your coffee at you across the bar.”

Phillips is part of a growing subculture of baristas who travel to competitions across the country to showcase their coffee-making skills and help raise the profile of baristas. She’s also the founder of the San Diego Coffee Training Institute, a new nonprofit that will soon be helping people become better trained, even certified baristas.

Craft coffee is having a moment in San Diego, but despite the growth, Phillips said the industry needs to step it up when it comes to pay and professionalism. She said coffee shops should be hiring the most skilled employees rather than those who simply look the coolest.

Anyone can train at San Diego Coffee Training Institute for a price, but once it’s up and running the nonprofit arm of the institute will offer a one- to two-week program for free to people just out of prison or jail, those who’ve been homeless and other people in need. Phillips is partnering with Second Chance and other nonprofits working to help people out of poverty.

Phillips has worked at Cafe Virtuoso for years. Downtown San Diego’s surging downtown homeless population is an issue she sees up close every time she walks out the front door of the Barrio Logan cafe and coffee roaster. A year ago, she came up with the idea to merge her passion for coffee with helping the people she saw sleeping on San Diego streets.

Coffee-related nonprofits aren’t common, but a few do exist. There’s even one other nonprofit cafe in City Heights that employs marginalized citizens who live in the neighborhood.

Phillips’ nonprofit just got its first grant, and she has a design for the training facility, which will be housed inside Cafe Virtuoso. Now she’s raising funds to build out the space for a planned launch of the institute later this year.

“We have a really fun cool skill we’re going to give the people who go through our program, and it’s a skill they can take anywhere because there are coffee shops all over the place,” Phillips said.

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news. Sign up here to get the weekly report delivered to your inbox. 

Updates on the Art Venue Crackdown

Local television news and the U-T followed up on the story I broke last week about San Diego fire officials cracking down on Barrio Logan arts venues in the wake of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland.

The local arts venues affected included La Bodega, Glashaus and Bread & Salt. Since my story ran, Jim Brown, the owner of Bread & Salt, said he met with the fire department and cleared up any concerns.

“We’ve been cleared for normal operation,” Brown said.

Meanwhile, La Bodega, a gallery on Logan Avenue, has launched a campaign to raise funds to help pay for the fire safety upgrades the city is requiring.

“Regardless of how far we have come and despite all of our hard work and sacrifice over the years and our unceasing dedication to promoting San Diego’s artistic community, La Bodega’s future is now in jeopardy and we are in need of desperate help,” reads the gallery’s online crowdfunding page.

So far, La Bodega has raised about $9,000 of its $38,000 goal.

Glashaus will continue operating as a collection of art studios, but has temporarily halted big public events.

“At this moment we have met the basic fire safety requirements and we are allowed to stay open, with no events and max occupancy of 29,” said Matt Devine, who holds the master lease on the warehouse space. “We are now working on a few building code issues.”

Arts Leaders’ Wish Lists for 2017, Lots of Leading Ladies and Other Arts and Culture News

• I’m stoked that Culturecast got a mention (in the No. 1 spot no less!) in CityBeat’s roundup of the year’s top art moments. CityBeat also looked forward to some of the most exciting arts events of 2017.

Artist Gustaf Rooth is closing down his studio and art gallery in Bankers Hill. Rooth is one of the original founders of the Ray at Night art walk in North Park, and he’s operated a gallery in the city for 17 years. He made the announcement on Facebook and said San Diego has always been a hard place to run a gallery.

“After hundreds of artisan shows, countless events, hundreds of collectors and thousands of visitors … the time has come to walk away,” he wrote.

• Tijuana muralist Enrique Chiu is behind an effort to paint a big new mural on the south side of the border fence. (KPBS)

• There sure are a lot of ladies leading San Diego arts institutions right now. I wrote about the growing trend last week.

Bread & Salt has a new artist-in-residence.

• The city of Vista is looking for sculpture art for the annual “Kites Over Vista” outdoor public art exhibition. The city’s also looking for artists to paint murals on two skate parks. (The Coast News Group)

• Mission Federal ArtWalk, San Diego Visual Arts Network and The Studio Door launched a new scholarship program for local artists.

•  A new museum featuring Kumeyaay artifacts, a collection of oral histories and other educational materials illustrating Kumeyaay history is set to open this month. (KPBS)

• Little Italy, once a bustling art and design district, is losing yet another gallery, jdc Fine Art.

• The Artist Odyssey, a San Diego-based company with a mission to create more than 10,000 artist documentaries and recorded artist lessons, is stepping up its output.

• The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego recently opened three new exhibitions at its downtown location. (ArtDaily)

• The U-T talked to local arts leaders about what they want to see more of in 2017. Here are the resulting classical music, visual art, dance, music and theater wish lists.

• Nerds might like this monthly event series. (KPBS)

• SounDiego rounded up its favorite San Diego jazz recordings of 2016.

• The city of San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture is looking for volunteers to help review funding applications from local arts groups.

Got stories about Balboa Park’s gay cruising culture? This San Diego artist wants to hear from you.

• San Diego’s literati shared the best story they read or heard in 2016. (So Say We All)

• Upstart Crow Bookstore and Coffeehouse announced via Facebook that it would be closing at the end of the month.

• Here’s a peak at one of the installations in the San Diego International Airports’ “Intergalactic Dreaming” exhibition opening at the end of the month in Terminal 2.

• Check out CityBeat’s list of the best seven local albums recorded in 2016.

• The San Diego Natural History Museum, Digital Gym Cinema and San Diego scientists have partnered up for a film series exploring some of the real science behind sci-fi movies. (CityBeat)

• Local children’s book author Kathleen Krull’s latest book, “A Kids Guide to America’s First Ladies,” was released Tuesday.

Food, Beer and Booze News

• Local restaurants are finding creative ways to deal with the city’s minimum wage increase, which went into effect Jan. 1. (CW6 San Diego)

• CityBeat beer columnist Andrew Dyer listed some beer trends that aren’t invited back in 2017.

• Modern Times brewery and coffee roaster is opening a location in Encinitas. (Reader)

• San Diego Magazine’s Troy Johnson rounded up the best dishes he ate in 2016. Johnson also launched a new series in which he’ll be answering food-related questions, and he failed big time recently when he couldn’t get the guts to eat this slimy salted octopus dish.

• Matua’s Sushi Bar & Islander Grill is relocating to Barrio Logan.

•  Rally’s is opening a new location in Logan Heights. (NBC 7 San Diego)

• Barons Market finally opened its doors in North Park. The gourmet grocery store includes three new murals by five local artists. (Times of San Diego)

There San Diego says these are the 13 best coffee shops to get some work done.

Kinsee Morlan is the engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.

Kinsee Morlan

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture...

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.