Short Stuff: Stinky flowers, chocolate master, El Super not so super, New Village Arts, SANDAG kids on the rails

San Marcos pastry chef-Christopher Rulle wins US chocolate master title/Christopher Rulle

Do NOT smell the flowers

Morbid curiosity-seekers may be flocking to Encinitas soon, hoping to catch a whiff of a soon-to-bloom Amorphophallus titanum.

The so-called “corpse flower,” named for the pungent stench emitted when it blooms, is expected to make an appearance later this month at the San Diego Botanic Garden (SDBG) in North County. This world-famous, ultra-rare specimen has not yet bloomed, but it is getting bigger by the day.

The floral spike from the corpse flower can reach up to 12 feet in the wild, opening to “reveal two rings of flowers along the spadix. The spathe and spadix wilt within a few days of the bloom,” according to a SDBG news release.

“We have no idea what a spadix is, either (“an inflorescence consisting of a spike with a fleshy or thickened axis, usually enclosed in a spathe,” says,” SDBG said. “Or a spathe (“a large sheathing bract enclosing the flower cluster of certain plants, especially the spadix of arums and palms,” per Oxford Languages). So, yeah, this isn’t helping.

After all that work — “most plants require seven to 10 years to produce their first blooms and then bloom only every four to five years thereafter,” according to the botanic garden — the bloom lasts just 48 hours after it first puts in an appearance.

“The corpse flower is the rock star diva of the plant world,” SDBG president and CEO Ari Novy is quoted as saying in a news release issued this week. “We never know exactly when it’s going to perform, but when it does, it’s the most amazing show in all of horticulture. We can’t wait to see what this corpse flower is going to do.”

The endangered plant is native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra; there are less than 1,000 plants left in the wild, according to the SDBC.

Incredibly, the spike is soaring six inches per day, officials said. Want to monitor it from home? There’s a livestream here. Looks like there’s plenty of time to head to North County — to our eye, the spike looks to be only a couple of feet tall at this point.

So, you may ask: Why so repellant, corpse flower?

That’s an easy one, according the garden’s botanists: The “flower’s rancid carrion scent … attracts the carcass-eating insects that pollinate it.” So gross.

Fun fact: The folks at the SDBG have given their plant an October-perfect name: Jack Smellington.

Ticket reservations are required. Entrance to the conservatory is included with admission. Members receive free admission. Non-member admissions range from $12 to $18. Each purchase of an adult ticket in October qualifies for one free youth (under 18) admission. SDBG provides free entry to members of other gardens participating in the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program. For ticket information, visit

‘America’s Chocolate King’

San Marcos resident Christophe Rull earlier this month was crowned the U.S. Chocolate Master after competing in the World Chocolate Masters American semifinal competition in Chicago.

The pastry chef, now known as “America’s Chocolate King,” is now preparing to represent the United States in the World Chocolate Masters competition in Paris next fall. Rull said if he wins the global competition in Paris, he would be the first U.S. champion in the competition’s history.

Rull was born in France and started his culinary career there. When he moved to the U.S., he spent five years working at the Park Hyatt in Carlsbad, creating unique chocolate sculptures.

He joined KPBS Midday Edition to talk about what the title means to him, and how his journey started.

“The World Chocolate Master is one of the biggest competitions in my field, and it’s something you always look out for as a young student when you start culinary school,” Rull said. “Since the beginning, I was like if one day I can get to that level, that will really be a great achievement.”

As part of his competition assignments, Rull incorporated his love for oceans in his creations.

“I am an ocean lover, and I know how important the ocean is for humans and for the planet, so I really focused on that theme,” Rull said.

He has competed in multiple competitions featured on the Food Network, such as “Halloween Wars” and “Holiday Wars.” He is also featured in the Netflix series “Bake Squad.”

Rull will be competing against 21 other countries at the World Chocolate Masters competition next fall.

El Super not so super with employees

El Super Escondido. You might not want to work there./The Grapevine

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office announced Tuesday that it has cited a Southern California grocery chain for failing to pay or delaying supplemental paid sick leave to 240 workers affected by COVID-19 at 38 stores, including three in San Diego County.

Bodega Latina, which does business as El Super, was cited $1,164,500 after an investigation found that “some workers were forced to work while sick, others were told to apply for unemployment while quarantining or in isolation, while others waited months to be paid,” according to the Labor Commissioner’s Office.

Some sick workers were told that until they received their test results, they had to come into work even when they displayed COVID-19 symptoms, the Labor Commissioner’s Office said.

Those who needed to self-quarantine were told to apply for unemployment or disability to cover their isolation time, while others were denied time off to isolate when members of their household tested positive for COVID-19, according to the agency.

In July, the chain was cited by the Labor Commissioner’s Office for similar violations affecting 95 workers at three stores in Los Angeles, Lynwood, and Victorville.

Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower said that following the July citations, “we heard from additional workers who had their sick leave denied or delayed. We broadened the scope of our investigation to capture as many workers impacted by these violations as possible and provide them what they are due.”

The latest violations led to citations at three county locations in San Diego, Escondido and Oceanside.

According to the Labor Commissioner’s Office, the investigation began in September 2020 following complaints from workers and a referral from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents grocery store workers. The agency says workers were not consistently informed of their rights to supplemental paid sick leave if affected by COVID-19.

California’s Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law, which expired Sept. 30, required that California workers at businesses with more than 25 workers be provided up to two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave if they are affected by COVID-19. The Labor Commissioner’s Office says it continues to enforce the law for any violations that occurred between Jan. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2021, the period the law covered.

Garcia-Brower said, “Supplemental paid sick leave is a tool to protect our communities by stopping the spread of COVID-19 through the workplace.”

‘A Black Family Christmas’

L to r: Victor Morris, Milena (Sellers) Phillips, Deja Fields in new holiday themed production at New Village Arts, Carlsbad Village/New Village Arts

New Village Arts, a North County cultural hub, launches its 20th Anniversary Season with a world premiere: 1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas, a new holiday musical written by San Diego playwright Dea Hurston and devised by Frankie Alicea-Ford, Kevin “Blax” Burroughs, Milena (Sellers) Phillips, and Dea Hurston, centering on the family holiday experience in a humorous and touching way.

1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas will be performed at New Village Arts, 2787 State Street in Carlsbad Village. Directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg with original music by Milena (Sellers) Phillips, it features music adaptation and direction by John-Mark McGaha.

Previews are November 19–26, with performances November 27–December 26.

Dorothy Black invites you to join her and her adult children for Christmas Eve dinner at 1222 Oceanfront. The festive evening features all of the Black family traditions including  Italian food, dancing, singing and skits. The evening may also include a bit of drama, because, well it’s family. But seriously, how much drama can there be on Christmas Eve?

“I feel the entire play is a reimagined Christmas Eve where ‘Silent Night’ is a love song, ‘What Child is This’ a protest song, and the choreography for ‘Go Tell It On the Mountain’ stops just short of offending Jesus,” playwright Dea Hurston said.

“It’s been an act of joy to bring Dorothy Black, her family and her home to life in this adult holiday musical and I’m thrilled to share 1222 Oceanfront with San Diego,” Hurston said.

Details, season passes, and tickets:

SANDAG pilot transit program for kids

Sept, 18, 2015. San Marcos, CA. USA| Sprinter Station at California State University at San Marcos.|Photos by Jamie Scott Lytle.Copyright.

The San Diego Association of Governments approved an $8 million transit pilot program for free fares for those 18 years old and under during its Oct. 22 meeting.

Supervisor Nora Vargas, along with SANDAG’s social equity working group, developed the pilot test to reach underserved populations and communities across the region.

The plan passed 12-7, with representatives from the North County cities of Carlsbad, San Marcos and Vista voting against it.

The program will direct $5.3 million to the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and $700,000 to the North County Transit District (NCTD) for the pilot, which will run from March 2022 through June 2023.

Both transportation agencies still need to approve the program, according to The Coast News.

Proponents believe the pilot program is a great starting point to reach underserved populations and expand upon to include free rides for anyone younger than 24 years of age. Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of SANDAG, said the goal is to eventually provide free rides to all passengers by 2030.

“For some families in our region, fares are a monthly burden,” Brian Lane, senior transit planner for SANDAG, told the board. “We’ve heard for years that we’ve always like 24 and under to be considered for free fares, but we’ve estimated that would cost $35 million per year.”

Vargas said the “youth opportunity” transit passes are an investment in young people to eliminate financial barriers preventing them from riding transit, along with being committed to securing long-term funding for those 24 and under.

SANDAG would need $6 million to cover fares, $1.7 million in transit improvements, $200,000 for outreach and $50,000 for a research study, which will come back to the board in Sept. 2023.

Transit improvements include, most notably, adding service on weekdays, weekends and evenings to routes with infrequent service, although it appears only MTS will receive those improvements, according to the staff report.

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