Culinary Crusaders: La Cocina

The Mission: Champion food artisans.
Cocoa Nibs
Cristina Besher of Kika’s Treats makes unbelievable Brazilian-inflected shortbreads. Photo © Dunja Dumanski.
Culinary Crusaders

Slideshow: Culinary Crusaders

San Francisco is full of incredible cooking talent—some established, some still struggling. La Cocina, which supports immigrant women who want to launch their own food businesses, brilliantly taps into that network. La Cocina’s 80 volunteers, ranging from chefs to CPAs, help the women in the program do everything from developing recipes to bookkeeping.

“Our role is to connect people to resources,” says director of operations Caleb Zigas. La Cocina also gives the women access to inexpensive kitchen space for one to five years, until they are ready to operate on their own.

There have been many inspiring successes. Cristina Besher of Kika’s Treats, who makes unbelievable Brazilian-inflected shortbreads, is about to graduate from the program and has already financed part of a factory for producing her sweets. And Claire Keane, the Irish creator of heavenly chocolate-toffee bars called Clairesquares, has done so well that she’s looking for an outside company to help with packaging.

Their products are available on the La Cocina website, as are terrific gift boxes filled with a mix of La Cocina foods.

PUBLISHED November 2009