La Cocina has stood through the test of time—especially as COVID-19 ravages the restaurant industry, we’re excited to see a glimmer of hope from the non-profit kitchen incubator.
April 5th (Monday), La Cocina opened its doors for it’s first standalone location: Municipal Market. It’s the nation’s first women-led food hall in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. In partnership with the Office of the Mayor and Tenderloin Housing Clinic, the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace has opened for take-out initially and provide the organization with greater capacity to take on meal preparation for local food security programs. Aiming to provide its entrepreneurs with another source of revenue during the pandemic as well as nourishing meals for the city’s most vulnerable residents. If you don’t think that’s incredible, the line-up of incubated chefs will sure make your stomach growl.
La Cocina itself was born out of a belief that a community of talented natural entrepreneurs, given the right resources, can create self-sufficient businesses that benefit themselves, their families, their community, and the whole city. The food that has come out of our kitchen since 2005 reflects that aspiration and, quite simply, tastes amazing. The Municipal Marketplace businesses—a combination of La Cocina graduates with restaurants as well as participants launching their first brick-and-mortar—include:
Boug Cali (Creole Bodega)—Chef Tiffany Carter
Estrellita’s Snacks (Salvadoran)—Chef Estrella Gonzalez
Kayma (Algerian)—Chef Wafa and Mounir Bahloul
Los Cilantros (Mexican)—Chef Dilsa Lugo
Mi Morena (Mexican)—Chef Guadalupe Moreno
Terenga (Senegalese/Pan-African)—Chef Nafy Flatley
Bini’s Kitchen (Nepalese)—Chef Bini Pradhan (launching when dine-in opens)
“This is La Cocina’s most ambitious project yet, and we’re opening after a tumultuous year that has rocked our community,” said Chef Jay Foster, food entrepreneur and Municipal Marketplace Manager. “Although it’s not the grand opening we had hoped for, we’re moving forward with optimism and excitement to activate this space in a way that safely enables these talented entrepreneurs to build their businesses and feed the Tenderloin community at a critical time. When it’s safe to do so, we look forward to welcoming neighbors and the public to sit at the chefs’ counters, read a book with their children in the community space, or enjoy a drink at the La Paloma bar.”
Pending further restrictions, the Marketplace is slated to open its doors to public dine-in and gathering summer 2021, providing a safe and welcoming place for families, residents, and workers in the city’s most populated and ethnically diverse neighborhood of 30,000 residents and the highest population of children.
Though notably, most La Cocina entrepreneurs approach their business as a pathway to economic freedom, seeking a way to take control of their economic lives and move away from wage-labor with a finite cap. The soft outcomes include deep community investment, hiring from within their local communities and a more robust, equitable and inclusive food economy.
The City of San Francisco is the principal funder of the project and is leasing 101 Hyde Street to La Cocina at below-market-rate rent through December 2025 when construction begins for an affordable housing development on site. The project exemplifies a creative interim activation model for future affordable housing developments and ground floor retail in San Francisco. The food hall aligns with the City’s mission to activate vacant buildings and fill storefronts in the Tenderloin to help enhance and improve safety. In further support, OEWD provided financial and technical support to La Cocina on the permitting process and funding for La Cocina’s technical assistance to Marketplace entrepreneurs.
If you see us at the food hall, say hello—let’s chat about city planning while dining on some of the cities most vibrant eats.
// Visit the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace at 101 Hyde St, Tenderloin; lacocinamarketplace.com. Photography courtesy of Erin Ng.