Proceeds from 'Voices from the Kitchen' will benefit low-income food entrepreneurs across the Bay Area.

By Nina Friend
October 08, 2020
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Credit: Erin Ng

The culinary incubator La Cocina has helped dozens of low-income food entrepreneurs open businesses in the Bay Area, including Nite Yun, a 2019 F&W Best New Chef, who owns Nyum Bai in Oakland.

Twice a year, La Cocina puts on a fundraising event called Voices from the Kitchen, in which writers, activists, thought leaders, and La Cocina entrepreneurs share personal stories told through the lens of food. This year, at 5:30 p.m. PT on October 29, the event will be staged virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (You can register here for free tickets, but a $10 donation is encouraged.)

This year’s event theme is “Choices,” a nod to the difficult realities of 2020. “There have been a lot of really hard choices that everyone has had to make this year,” said Leticia Landa, La Cocina’s Deputy Director. “I hope that these stories can nourish us and remind us of the many different ways that we’re connected, even though we’re in our individual homes and probably feeling isolated.”

The event will include personal narratives from eight storytellers and two short films, with a lineup including writers Jia Tolentino, Mayukh Sen, and Rachel Levin.

In years past, La Cocina has hosted Voices from the Kitchen at theaters across San Francisco. The evening always begins with cocktails and snacks that feature La Cocina businesses, and the team wanted to make sure that participants could still feel the La Cocina love even if the event can’t be in person. (In Landa’s words, “People never come to our events and leave hungry.")

Credit: Erin Ng

So this year, La Cocina is offering five options for local Bay Area meal kits—including an appetizer box with Noodle Girl Vietnamese mushroom pâté and a fried chicken meal kit from Minnie Bell's Soul Movement—as well as an artisanal snack box available for national shipment. The snack box comes with Sal De Vida Roasted Habanero Salt, a personalized recipe to make your own popcorn, Origen Oaxacan Mole Negro Trail Mix, and NeoCocoa Quintet Chocolate Truffles.

“The full experience would be to order a meal kit box and get to taste the actual food,” Landa said. “And it’s a great way to support women-owned businesses.”

In Landa’s opinion, the silver lining of a virtual event—beyond having an opportunity to taste-test La Cocina brands at home—is that her friends in places like New York and Texas will get to experience how powerful it is. 

“Voices from the Kitchen often sells out because there’s a limited number of seats, but now we can go far and wide,” Landa said. “National reach feels really significant. That’s how big the stories and storytellers deserve to be.”