La Cocina Gets Creative To Help Fund Low Income Food Entrepreneurs

Like restaurant owners everywhere, Veronica Salazar of El Huarache Loco in Larkspur is navigating the impact of the pandemic on a daily basis. The entrepreneur chef opened her restaurant in 2012 with the guidance and resources provided by 15-year-old Bay Area kitchen incubator La Cocina.

Along with the food entrepreneurs it launched, the majority of which have lost most, if not all, of their revenue and are working diligently to stay afloat, La Cocina has had to bear the duress of a mandated lockdown that curtailed the fundraising efforts (events, catering and retail) that support the program.

During a year that operates best on fluidity, the nonprofit organization is pivoting its 10th storytelling fundraising event Voices from the Kitchen, a typically sold-out San Francisco stage production, to be a virtual format that’s open to all for free. It will broadcast on La Cocina’s YouTube channel from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 29.

Set yourself with up with a showtime snack or appetizer box, or a Malaysian, Algerian or fried chicken meal kit designed and prepared by La Cocina chefs ($75 to $150). Delivery, a beverage and fun swag are included with food purchases. The boxes and kits must be ordered by Oct. 23 if within the Bay Area or Oct. 21 if outside the region or state.

The La Cocina’s online production features immersive, inspiring personal narratives expressed through multisensory mediums showcasing the cooks and kitchens that are often less heard. Eight storytellers and two short films focus on “choices,” the event’s theme and a predominant, but sometimes conflicting, 2020 reality.

Storytellers include New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino; Fernay McPherson of Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement; esteemed writer Mayukh Sen; illustrator Rinee Shah; filmmaker Desire Lacap; and other writers, activists, artists and La Cocina entrepreneurs.

“Our shared experiences and the stories we tell about them will be an important part of what defines this time when we look back on it,” says Leticia Landa, La Cocina’s deputy director. “And as an organization, we feel prouder than ever to provide this platform for the voices of our industry to be heard.”

Go to lacocinasf.org/voicesfromthekitchen to secure free tickets, make donations (suggested viewing fee is $10) and order meal kits.

“We’ve made choices as an organization to take the action we want to see nationally, such as securing rent abatement, creating a long-term emergency relief fund and finding revenue opportunities that not only benefit our entrepreneurs but support food insecurity efforts locally,” says Landa in a recent press release. Proceeds from the event will support all active and eligible participants of La Cocina.

To date, La Cocina has incubated more than 125 businesses; graduated over 55 entrepreneurs; and supported the launch of 33 brick-and-mortar locations in the Bay Area, a feat that has landed its executive director Caleb Zigas with a 2020 James Beard Leadership Award.

Zigas has been recognized for his efforts to create a more equitable food system by softening the barriers to opening an independent food business faced by women, immigrants and people of color.

Back to Salazar, one of La Cocina’s earliest success stories; she is a testament to what the organization has be able to accomplish by helping struggling food entrepreneurs broker the distance between vision and reality.

Courtesy of Kate Leahy“Lavash” author Kate Leahy and her co-author Ara Zada share recipes at Homeward Bound’s next Fresh Starts Chef Event on Oct. 22.

Little would the El Huarache Loco chef and owner have known that her two-decade journey that began with informally selling the traditional specialties from her Mexico City childhood out of a small apartment in San Francisco would not only lead to leaping a language barrier, building a viable business plan and helming a restaurant, but put her in front of a national audience as part of a James Beard Award broadcast.

Zigas and five other national recipients received the foundation’s accolade via live Twitter broadcast on Sept. 25 from Chicago (now available on YouTube), and Salazar is one of the La Cocina entrepreneurs who participated in the organization’s video piece.

“More equitable investments across our communities will ultimately result in a more vibrant food economy, less homogenous restaurant industry and a more delicious cityscape for all of us,” Zigas says in the video. “You come out of La Cocina with a sense that there’s a better world possible and that it’s going to be led by the people who run these restaurants.”

Get a taste of Salazar’s Mexican street food at El Huarache Loco by ordering online or calling in for huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, tacos, gorditas, enchiladas, alambres and much more. Takeout, outside and limited indoor dining is available from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends at 1803 Larkspur Landing Circle in Larkspur. For more information or to place an order, go to huaracheloco.com.

Lavash party

Take a virtual visit to Armenia and explore its unique culinary flavors over refreshing tea-based cocktails at Homeward Bound’s next Fresh Starts Chef Event from 5 to 6 p.m. Oct. 22.

Kate Leahy and Ara Zada, co-authors of “Lavash: the Bread that Launched 1,000 Meals,” will show viewing participants how to make jingalov hats (herb-stuffed flatbread) and Urfa kebabs (skewers with eggplant and beef).

Their book highlights the versatile Armenian-heritage flatbread, including how to make it and recipes for soups, stews, meats, vegetables and desserts that it enhances. It’s also a photographic exploration of Armenia in the 21st century and a celebration of breaking bread with friends and family.

“I want ‘Lavash’ to raise the bar on Armenian cookbooks, giving cooks a window into the real, and really Old World, of Armenian food,” says Zada on the book’s website at lavashthebook.com.

Leahy reflects after a year’s worth of research on Armenian-American cookbooks. “I always was amazed at how every Armenian I knew seemed to talk about food twice as much as anyone else, and this was well before the days when taking pictures and sharing what you cooked was socially acceptable.”

The cookbook and three versatile teas from premier event sponsor, Marin’s Republic of Tea, will be delivered to attendees prior to the event. These will serve as the base for two cocktails — blackberry sage sweet tea with lemon vodka, Meyer lemon and honey, and ginger peach sweet tea with whiskey, muddled peach and candied ginger — that IJ columnist Jeff Burkhart, aka Barfly, will shake up with viewers.

To guarantee delivery of the cookbook and tea by Oct. 22, reserve a spot by Wednesday ($65) at bit.ly/FSchefevents or call 415-382-3363, extension 243. Registrants will receive an email with the event’s Zoom link and the downloadable recipes. Proceeds go to supporting shelter, housing and training programs at Homeward Bound of Marin. Find out more and see a schedule of upcoming events at bit.ly/FSchefevents.

Leanne Battelle is a freelance food writer. Please email her at ij.lbattelle@gmail.com with local food and restaurant news or follow the Marin dining scene at instagram.com/therealdealmarin.

Source : https://www.marinij.com/2020/10/13/la-cocina-gets-creative-to-help-fund-low-income-food-entrepreneurs/

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