The Food Business Incubator That Helps Immigrant Women Pursue

by Lionel Casey

“La Cocina” means “the kitchen” in Spanish. It’s additionally the call of an enterprise incubator based in San Francisco’s Mission District. Since it commenced in 2005, it is been assisting nearby food entrepreneurs, many of whom are low-earnings immigrant women, broaden their small agencies.

Over the years, many of its alumni have observed achievement: More than 50 chefs in its software have become self-enough business owners, and many of them have opened their own brick-and-mortar restaurants. Two alumnae of its culinary application, Nite Yun and Reem Assil, had been even recognized as semi-finalists for prestigious James Beard awards.

A new cookbook, We are La Cocina: Recipes in Pursuit of the American Dream tells some of their tales.

Executive director Caleb Zigas says the non-income La Cocina grew out of grassroots financial improvement employer who observed many humans cooking at their houses and promoting food at the streets. The providers wished an inexpensive business kitchen space and technical help in order for his or her businesses to be legally feasible. La Cocina provided just one of this area, in addition to helping them broaden commercial enterprise plans, pull city permits and more.

Zigas says as many as eight businesses can paintings in the kitchen space at La Cocina at someone time. Some can prep for a farmer’s marketplace sale, company catering gigs or weddings, even as others are probably making and packaging their meals products.

“It’s simply a notable and exciting range of strategies, flavors, perspectives, age, language. And this is a truly stunning issue,” he says. “But I assume we’d be doing a disservice to the reality of the gap if we additionally did not speak approximately how annoying that can be, to have that many human beings from distinctive places within the international come together, simply with a shared purpose.”

Later this 12 months, La Cocina plans to open a market inside the Tenderloin District.

Twice a yr, La Cocina hosts “F&B: Voices from the Kitchen,” a storytelling mission in which their cooks can inform their own stories, as they do within the new cookbook. Some of the cooks can be on an excursion to promote the book, whose proceeds will visit aid La Cocina marketers.

NPR stuck up with several La Cocina cooks, who shared their tales:
Mariko Grady, Aedan Fermented Foods

At La Cocina, you may frequently listen Mariko Grady making a song or buzzing as she prepares miso, koji, and amasake. Her fermented merchandise is available in 4 one-of-a-kind flavors, consisting of mushroom and chook, to be used in soups and sauces. She at first brought the fermenting rice and Barley koji seeds from Japan, in which she had a 30-year career as a singer and dancer with the celebrated contemporary theatrical dance group she founded, Pappa Tarahumara. They executed around the arena, and 16 years in the past, had a one-night time display in San Francisco. The guy who might turn out to be her husband became in the audience. She soon joined him in San Francisco, regularly returning to Tokyo to rehearse. But after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, her employer disbanded. “It becomes very hard to get sufficient money from the authorities, ” she says, “and every member of the agency decided to reset their lifestyles.” Grady centered on nourishing her family and growing a line of fermented merchandise that she sells online, at neighborhood Bay Area stores and at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. She started at La Cocina in 2012 and named her business after her son, Aedon. (Written in Kanji characters, the call method “awareness” and “surpassed down from technology to era.”) Grady says she listens to her frame carefully – both while to carry out and while to make miso. Her fermented products are “additionally full of awareness about how to narrate to nature and a way to create a healthy life,” she says.



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