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Movers & Shakers: They’ve Got Game

Written by Jeanne Cooper | Illustrations by Olivia Wise

Sometimes star power is about making others shine — on the field, onstage or even in the kitchen. This month’s lineup of luminaries includes both rookies and veterans of the Bay Area scene, all ready to assist those around them with flair and finesse.

Martin Yan

When the James Beard Foundation called the host of PBS’ pioneering in April, he expected an invitation to cook for a special event. Instead, the Hong Kong–trained chef, 73, will receive the organization’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual ceremony in Chicago on June 13. Hailed for creating more than 3,500 episodes of a show that introduced Chinese cooking techniques to countless households, as well as writing 30 cookbooks, Yan nevertheless admits surprise. “It’s so amazing — now I can say I’m in the same hall of fame as Jacques Pépin, Marion Cunningham and Julia Child and all these iconic culinarians,” he notes. Busy hosting YouTube cooking videos, charity fundraisers and food tours when not working in his San Mateo vegetable garden, Yan says he shares his predecessors’ passion for passing on their skills. “We nurture people and want to inspire young people to be in our business,” he says. “I’ll never quit.”

Jonathan Moscone

Steeped in theater since his high school days in the City at St. Ignatius College Preparatory, the San Francisco native worked early on with producers Carole Shorenstein Hays and the late Joseph Papp, then earned his own applause as artistic director of California Shakespeare Festival from 2000 to 2015. He also won kudos as director and playwright of 2012’s Ghost Light, co-written with Tony Taccone for Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and inspired in part by his late father, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Most recently chief producer at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Moscone now directs initiatives and writes grants as the new director for the state’s California Arts Council, which has an annual $30 million budget. “If I’m making it possible for artists to practice art, it’s good,” he told the San Francisco Examiner (a sister publicaion to the Gazette), after assuming the behind-the-scenes role in late April. “I’ve had a great creative career. I can’t wait for other people to have the same.”

Alyssa Nakken

The former Sacramento State softball star made headlines in early 2020 when the San Francisco Giants hired their former intern as a full-time coach, the first woman in that role in Major League Baseball. Although this season hasn’t yet reached the midsummer All-Star Game, the 31-year-old has already made it a memorable one by becoming the first woman to coach on the field in a regular-season game. Nakken left the dugout to coach first base in the third inning of the April 12 home game against the San Diego Padres, after colleague Antoan Richardson was ejected. Although her orange helmet became part of the Baseball Hall of Fame collection in Cooperstown, New York, and the team’s Dugout Store now sells replicas of her No. 92 jersey, Nakken’s reaction to making history was modest, telling the Associated Press, “I stepped in to what I’ve been hired to do, (to) support this staff and this team.”

Jacob Stensberg

The new artistic director of San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus doesn’t start till July 1, but thanks to his first-ever visit to the City before the pandemic, the Wisconsin native and Purdue University choir director already knows what not to expect from summer weather. “I thought since it’s in California, it must be warm,” Stensberg recalls with a laugh. “I still wear the jacket that says Academy of Sciences, which I bought in the gift shop.” A leader of Purdue’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, Stensberg says he is “very proud” that the San Francisco chorus no longer requires “maleness” to audition, thanks to a bylaws update by its board of directors. “Regardless if you’re nonbinary, trans or female identity, if you can sing tenor or bass, you are welcome to take part in the music, the advocacy and the activism of the Gay Men’s Chorus,” Stensberg says.

Lindsay Bierman

In town only since mid-April, the new executive director and CEO of the Exploratorium notes it will take some time to figure out his favorites of the approximately 600 exhibits at Pier 15. “I literally discover a new one every day,” says Bierman, who’s staying in Sausalito while waiting for husband Alan Henderson to relocate his custom printing company from North Carolina. Due to the omicron surge, a 90-minute FaceTime video replaced on-site interviews for the job, but that wasn’t much of a hurdle for the then-CEO of PBS North Carolina and former chancellor of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. “Because I’m an architect by training, I looked at a ton of videos and pictures, and looked at the history of the pier facility and the design and construction,” Bierman explains. “For me, the main attraction was the mission, the history, the legacy and the potential of the institution itself. When I got here, it was better than I could have ever imagined.”

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