Mapping Food Incubators
[Participants learning how to make salsa de tomate]
Cities around the world are helping immigrants integrate into the economic fabric of their adopted homelands. The New York Times’ Laura Novak had an article last week about a nonprofit food incubator in San Francisco.
La Cocina (which means “the kitchen” in Spanish) allows immigrant women to get out of poverty by equipping them to start their own food businesses. The shared-space concept boasts a commercial kitchen space filling the need and affordability of adequate equipment for these entrepreneurs who otherwise would be cooking illegally out of their homes.
Largely funded by foundation and government grants, La Cocina works on a sustainable model in that they charge a fee to instill the concept of responsible business ownership. The incubator also provides training from high-profile mentors and participants are supported in the creation of business plans and marketing strategies.
Participants churn out weekly orders of healthy fare like vegetarian tofu egg rolls and traditional Mexican foods like huaraches and salsa roja for catering offers, coffee shops and farmer’s markets. Some of these are even picked up by mainstream grocers like Whole Food Markets.
Across the continents in Barcelona, a Catalan neighborhood nonprofit in the Parallel area has an annual program that takes in immigrants interested in learning the ropes of cooking for a commercial kitchen. Through a four-month program, participants learn all the basics of Spanish and Catalan cooking to prepare themselves for a career in the restaurant business.
Participants even get to display their newly-honed culinary skills as the entire class would have to create a menu for thousands of people at a fund-raiser food fair in Montjuic in the summer. Some of the traditional recipes covered include arroz negro (rice made with squid ink), fumet blanco (broth), salsa de tomate (tomato sauce), and the paella.