In In The Kitchen With...

This Holiday season, we’re combining two of our favorite things: delicious food and giving back to our community.

We’re excited to announce that we’re partnering with La Cocina and giving back 10% of all added meals, until the end of the year, on any order placed with the La Cocina vendors that work with Chewse.

La Cocina is a food incubator that helps restaurant entrepreneurs in San Francisco (mostly women of color from immigrant communities) turn their ideas into successful businesses. Applicants go through an extensive 6-12 month program at La Cocina’s headquarters, learning the ins and outs of what running a food business is all about. Upon graduating, applicants often move their businesses to their very first brick and mortar locations.

La Cocina, San Francisco Street Food Festival

Since the day Chewse moved to San Francisco, our team has been captivated by La Cocina. Some of the most unique, authentic and tasty food in the city comes from La Cocina graduates (Bini’s Kitchen and Alicia’s Tamales, to name a couple). Their mission also aligns perfectly with what we stand for as a company: food is the heart of any community and it helps bring people together.

Their story is remarkable. Twenty two of the incubator’s graduate restaurants have since opened a brick and mortar locations in the Bay Area within the past six years. That’s more than any other restaurant group in the city. This is especially significant considering that each of these restaurants only had $5,000 in starting capital.

To better understand the success of their program, we visited La Cocina’s headquarters in the Mission District and spoke with Jessica Mataka, Development & Communications Associate.

As Jessica explains, the incubator has primarily focused on eliminating barriers of entry for food businesses by offering them affordable kitchen space and providing them with the necessary skills to run their restaurants successfully (financial and accounting knowledge, branding, catering opportunities…).

Food margins are slim and the economic landscape for restaurants in the Bay Area is very overcrowded, so for people who have a good idea, but no previous experience in the field, it can be pretty daunting.

D'maize - La Cocina Vendor

D’maize owners Luis and Zenaida just opened their first restaurant in the Mission

One of the business practices they try to instill in every participant they work with is to diversify their product through as many platforms as possible: farmers markets, catering orders, brick and mortars, local supermarkets, and food events. This allows them to gain additional exposure, but also makes sure their restaurant isn’t fully dependent on one single source of income.

The energy of La Cocina’s commissary kitchen is palpable. Most of its participants operate on site, which creates a beautiful mix of cuisines, recipes, colors and aromas. The team from Bini’s Kitchen is stuffing momos and cooking up a bright yellow Nepalese curry, while a couple stations down one of the other chefs is pulling out perfectly cooked marinated vegetables from the oven.

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During our visit, we spoke with some of the chefs and business owners to see how the incubator program has impacted their journey:

  • Shani Jones from Peaches Patties (specializing in Jamaican patties, which are similar to empanadas) is currently running her business alongside her husband and getting a doctorate in organizational leadership and management at the same time, which would have been unthinkable without the aid of La Cocina.
La Cocina Vendor - Peaches Patties

Shani, chef and owner of Peaches Patties, with her husband at La Cocina

  • Binita Pradhan, owner of Bini’s Kitchen, opened a storefront on Market Street a few months ago and has a constant line out the door during lunch hours, selling her city-wide famous turkey momos. She’s also a regular at Off The Grid and has a contract with Whole Foods and The Market. Her passionate, caring and charismatic manner paired with La Cocina’s business savvy has made her an unbeatable force.
Bini's Kitchen - La Cocina vendor

Bini’s famous momos getting ready for a steam

  • Heena Patel started Rasoi with the intention of introducing Western Indian food to the Bay Area. Thanks to La Cocina’s branding tips she’s been able to find her voice in a saturated market and introduce a tasty twist on an Indian staple: Blue Cheese Naan!
Rasoi - La Cocina vendor

Blue Cheese Naan from Rasoi

Chewse currently works with five La Cocina graduates: Peaches Patties, Bini’s Kitchen, Sugarfoot, D’maize and Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas. If you schedule any of their meals from now until the end of the year, 10% of all sales will be donated to La Cocina so they can reinvest the proceeds and give back to this incredible community. You can also add an extra meal right through your Meal Calendar or by clicking on this link.

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