The culinary incubator’s first cookbook is now on sale.

By Oset Babür
Updated June 04, 2019
Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Since first opening its kitchen doors in 2005, La Cocina has helped launch beloved Bay Area businesses like Bini’s Kitchen (which also happens to be one of our inaugural Great Restaurants to Work For), Aedan Fermented Foods, and many others. Today, the culinary incubator extends its influence beyond San Francisco and into bookstores across the country with We Are La Cocina: Recipes in Pursuit of the American Dream, the first-ever cookbook that features recipes from over forty of the kitchen’s alumni, such as Besharam’s Heena Patel and 2019 Best New Chef Nite Yun.

When the incubator’s co-founders Caleb Zigas and Leticia Landa first approached Yewande Komolafe to develop recipes for the book, the Brooklyn-based Nigerian food stylist, photographer, and writer was coincidentally working to legalize her own immigration status in the United States. “That was exciting in itself, getting to talk to people who were going through their own personal immigration stories and connecting it with food,” she says. “Doing so helped me process what I was going through.”

Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Komolafe says that the main differentiator between the La Cocina project and other cookbooks is the number of cooks in the kitchen––literally. “Shopping wasn’t as easy, because I’d shop for one recipe, and the next one would have a completely different list,” she said. Although most cookbooks are tied together by a single chef’s vision, a cuisine, or geographic region, the stories are what tie the recipes in this book together. “They’re all immigrant stories, so they’re all new American stories,” Komolafe says.

The cookbook is intended to serve as an approachable guide to La Cocina’s greatest hits, from Kelly Zubal’s baked butter mochi with coconut milk, to Fernay McPherson’s craveable rosemary fried chicken, while a recipe index organized by country helps readers envision regional menus from Japan, Chile, or Palestine. Komolafe says she hopes that it will serve as a trusted culinary resource for anyone who’s interested in the story of the new America.

Credit: Eric Wolfinger

“I’ve lived here for twenty years and I’ve always been an immigrant, but I think people are just now starting to understand what it means to pick up and move to start over in a new country. People are asking questions about the process,” she says.