The five co-founders of Three Stone Hearth in 2006, holding the company's Articles of Incorporation.
L-R: Larry Wisch, Jessica Prentice, Porsche Combash, Catherine
Spanger, and Misa Koketsu
The Hands That Feed You
This section of our website features profiles of Three Stone Hearth worker-owners and staff, students and interns, farmers and ranchers who provide our ingredients, artisans and vendors whose products we sell, and other members of our local food community who make it possible for us to do what we do. [Click here to see an archive of previously published profiles. --this sentence will appear as soon as these first profiles are archived -mud]
It seems fitting to begin with the hands that have fed us all, body and soul, from the beginning: the original co-founders who remain as worker-owners in our kitchen: Porsche Combash, Misa Koketsu and Jessica Prentice. Catherine Spanger, who could smoothe the most ruffled of feathers, left the cooperative in 2015 to join her long-term partner on the shores of Tomales Bay in Point Reyes. Larry Wisch, who was a catalyst for so many things at Three Stone Hearth, passed away in 2012 after an extended illness.
Porsche Combash is one of the great forces of Three Stone Hearth. Her strong voice echoes through the company. Her Mama Bear tendencies show up in many ways, from her role as “Mother Seacole” (an actual company role, in which she has bandaged many a wound), to spotting a troubled soul and letting them know they’re not alone. She also has eyes in the back of her head, and uncanny radar.
Her travels and culinary immersions include completing the Professional Chef Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute, a cooking internship at the famed Findhorn Institute in Scotland, and teaching-- and learning--at the Ballymaloe School of Cookery in Ireland.
Porsche grew up here in Berkeley. In the ‘70s, she remembers coming to the natural food coop located in the same space that houses Three Stone Hearth today… and resisting attempts to convince her that carob was just as good as chocolate. She was on the opening team at The Ravens in Mendocino and gained a lot of her retail experience at the Pasta Shop on Fourth Street.
For a long time, Porsche was the oil, the machine, and the repairman of our kitchen. She developed many of our recipes, and the methods we use to execute them, along with shepherding and training apprentices, students, and interns. The first time she went on vacation, we had to create an encyclopedic instruction manual just to preserve all that operational knowhow in her absence.
In 2013 Porsche was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to take a medical leave. She went through rigorous medical treatments, became an avid student of Ren Xue Qi Gong, and thankfully is now well! A steady supply of our bone broth also helped her recovery--her chemo nurses actually recommended our broth to her before they knew that she had helped found the company!
After returning to Three Stone Hearth, Porsche realized a long-whispered dream: opening our Saturday store. The welcoming feel, the great line of retail products, the Broth Bar, the reading table--all speak to her unbridled commitment to our community.
Berkeley is Porsche’s home, more than ever. Besides her extended family at Three Stone, she lives with her husband Mike, a marine biologist at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco. Mike’s daughter had a baby in 2016, making our mama bear a grandma as well!
Misa Koketsu grew up in a large Japanese-American family in the South Bay that put a great deal of emphasis on food, nutrition and tradition. They would eat traditional Japanese New Year's foods, like soba noodles, and ozoni (mochi soup), for good luck, health, and longevity. Her mother was responsible for Misa's earliest nutritional education. Misa remembers drinking raw milk delivered fresh to her doorstep and going with her mom to pick up farm fresh eggs, raw cheese and unsweetened peanut butter in bulk from their food-buying co-op in the '70s and '80s. Misa and her five siblings learned early on how to be responsible individuals and contribute to the common good. Great training for a cooperative!
After earning her B.A. from UC Berkeley (studying English, Art History, and French), Misa decided to go into the food world and completed the baking/pastry program at Contra Costa College. Afterwards, she worked as a baker and pastry cook at Grace Baking Company in Oakland and later helped establish a bakery in Sonora, CA. And while she loved the creativity of the work, she left the field when she became concerned about the impacts of white sugar and white flour on health. She later worked as the Grants Administrator at the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, where she learned about the plight of family farms and ranches, the importance of a local food system and the connection between ecological health and personal health.
Misa has always been guided by her intuition, her integrity and her dreams. Manifesting Three Stone Hearth was a natural culmination and progression of the work she'd done previously and has reconciled her love of food and cooking with her desire to be of service to the health and well-being of her community. It has been an amazing journey and she feels deep gratitude that she's been able to make a positive contribution through her work. One of the many rewards of the job has been seeing the kids in Three Stone Hearth’s community grow up over the years, nourished by our foods.
From the beginning, Misa took on the management of our finances. With no formal training, she has been our bookkeeper, budget maker and financial shepherd, and her relentless commitment and capability to do what needed to be done as the company grew in size and complexity has made EVERYTHING we do possible. All we ask beyond that is that she grace us with her joyful presence in the kitchen when she can. Thank you, Misa!
Jessica Prentice carried the seed which, after a year of visioning and planning with the four other co-founders, took root and sprouted as Three Stone Hearth. Jessica holds the purpose of Three Stone in a way that expresses a deep alignment with her own sense of purpose.
Before Three Stone, Jessica completed the Professional Chef Training Program at the Natural Gourmet in New York, served as Chef at the Headlands Center for the Arts and as Director of Education at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. She coined the term “locavore,” and before starting on the path to found Three Stone Hearth, she organized monthly Full Moon Feasts in a church basement in the city, wrote the book Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger For Connection, published by Chelsea Green in 2006, and co-created The Local Foods Wheel, which now has four versions highlighting seasonal foods in different areas of the country.
The roles Jessica fills here reflect her gifts for holding and sharing our vision: Mission Fairy, CSK Spokesperson, Product Coach, Company Culture, Organizational Development and Professional Development, among others. Jessica can connect a recipe idea, a marketing strategy, an HR policy or an interpersonal conflict to our mission of healing and our vision of a Community Supported Kitchen. When a meeting in our quiet room isn’t enough, Tarot readings, off the clock, can be secured in exchange for child care.
While helping to create the extended family of our kitchen, Jessica also started a family of her own. Her partner, Jacob Wright volunteered in our kitchen back in “the old days,” and the two acquaintances fell in love among the chicken feet and sauerkraut crocks. They now live in a burgeoning East Bay homestead with their son Tor (who has already marched against Big Oil and made his first archery bow!), Pepin the cat, Banjo the puppy, eight chickens and a spread of edible and medicinal plants -- and an awesome stack of cast iron pans!