Some of you may recall that Chris Knight — the Iowa-born, Paris-based journalist who started a project called Darn Brownies — came to town recently, to continue his mission of making and giving away free brownies just to make people happy and, hopefully by example, to do something good for their community.
When we last checked in with Knight, he was depending on the kindness of strangers, not only to eat his brownies, but to let him set up his folding table outside a restaurant in order to do so. While he was sourcing Valrhona chocolate and checking his Facebook account, he and his two small children were having evening picnics on the beach. Exactly.
It will not surprise many of you to learn that the kind strangers who responded to let Knight set up his free chocolate bake sale are none other than Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (you know who they are), who offered Knight space outside their Santa Monica Border Grill. Which is where Knight will be, later this afternoon, giving away his brownies to anyone who shows up. 5 p.m. Santa Monica. Plan your day accordingly.
Milliken and Feniger are also chipping in some treats of their own, also not a surprise. Thus not only can you get Knight's own homemade brownies for free, but a Border Choco-Bite – roasted almonds, caramelized and covered with dark chocolate, cinnamon and cocoa — or two. An editorial and slightly parental note: It would help if you're nice and actually interested in Knight's project and not just, you know, trolling for free stuff.
Knight got in touch with the two chefs after dining at the Border Grill in Santa Monica last week, having a lovely dinner and starting a conversation with the waiter, and then the chef, about the chocolate they use in their own brownies. (See: the transitive property of pastry chefs.)
Knight himself made brownies yesterday. “I have no idea how long 50 brownies will last. I will get there and set up around 5 p.m., depending on traffic.” (Hahaha to that last bit.) The visiting brownie guru, who is taking the summer off to spend time with his French wife and their two small children in California and to do other good works with chocolate, says that he's been pleasantly surprised by our fair land. (Remember, he's from Iowa by way of Paris.)
“I have been taken back repeatedly by the openness of Californians to the brownie project and just to their friendliness in general. I am not used to having people wave hello while I'm jogging in Westchester or asking me how my day is going while I’m walking down main street in Santa Monica.”
Knight also says that he's gotten some good traffic — not only actual foot traffic to his tables, but web traffic. “The site has been visited by people from more than 200 cities and more than 20 countries in the past two months,” he told us.
“People are writing with many interesting projects, like handing out care packages to the homeless under a bridge in a certain L.A. neighborhood, making sugar cookies to give away next to a taco truck, or even offering cold washcloths to people working out in a park, believe it or not. … Little, unusual acts of niceness.” Which is, of course, the backstory and real point of the brownies, not JUST a happy exercise in good European chocolate.
Knight says that this Santa Monica stand will be his last one in California. (Hint: Start your own!!!) After that, he's cramming his family into a rental car and heading to the Grand Canyon, then to Iowa, to see the rest of his Midwestern family. He says he'll hold a few free brownie events there, then go back to Paris.
“I hope to hold a Paris brownie stand around September, and we’ll see what happens after that,” Knight told us. “Please send my thanks to Los Angeles and to the whole state for giving free brownies such a great lift.”