To San Francisco: In Support of Culinary Entrepreneurs

By Annaliese DeNooyer

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It’s Friday morning and the kitchen at 2948 Folsom is kicking out its
usual fusion of smells. Thick tortillas sizzle on the stove and slabs
of dough destined for chocolate babka span three feet of the metal prep
table.  Businesses work side-by-side at the stations, methodically
prepping for the weekend’s markets, cart sales, and pop-up dinners.
From 6am to midnight seven days a week, this kitchen at La Cocina is
open to provide an affordable kitchen space to the conglomerate of
program participants and commercial-renters from the area.

Specifically, La Cocina is a non-profit incubator kitchen in San
Francisco’s mission district. In addition to the low-cost commercial
space, the organization gives hands-on technical assistance to
low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs who are launching,
growing and formalizing food businesses. Working as a mobile food and
policy intern for La Cocina this summer, my day-to-day schedule is
wildly different from the folks who populate the kitchen every day;
but ultimately the entirety of my work revolves around them.

From the moment I discovered the non-profit’s website last year, I
immediately knew their mission was something I wanted to associate
myself with. At the time, I was awaiting the commencement of my
Gastronomy studies at Boston University, a considerable venture by its
own merit. Nevertheless, I had a vision for what my summer could be.

Now, seven months later, I’m in San Francisco, fully immersed in all
things La Cocina. I came on-board with the organization amidst the
final planning for our two biggest events of the year: the Street Food
Festival <http://www.sfstreetfoodfest.com/> and National Street Food
Conference <http://www.sfstreetfoodfest.com/conference.php>. The main
focus of the festival is the incredible  tacos, tapenyaki,
and latkes of the women who participate in our incubation program, and
is followed by the conference, which centers around the culture,
economics and public policy that affects street food. As an intern, my
time is divided between outreach and planning for the conference,
assisting with logistics for the street food festival, and researching
economic possibilities for food carts in the city. Each facet of the
internship has allowed me to experience gastronomic food policy in
action.

One full-time semester is complete, and I’ll be eager to return to
Boston to resume classes in September; but for the next two months
it’ll be cooking classes, Sunday suppers with El Buen Comer, and
tamales, all of the time.

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