"Social justice” is a phrase that Caleb Zigas likes to throw around. Former waiter, consummate professional and current Executive Director of La Cocina. Zigas started as a bilingual volunteer, now he runs the whole operation. How does a Jewish guy from D.C. become the lightning rod for immigrant women entrepreneurs in the Bay Area? I’m not really sure, but it wasn’t by accident.

According to their website, “The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities. We focus primarily on women from communities of color and immigrant communities. Our vision is that entrepreneurs will become economically self-sufficient and contribute to a vibrant economy doing what they love to do.”

The success of an organization charged with such a daunting task is going to come down to the staff. Zigas admits that he loves his job, and it shows. He is a lover of food, and truly cares about the entrepreneurs that he is helping to groom. Though he is very realistic when it comes to their success and admits that they expect a 40 percent attrition rate at every level of their program.

It doesn’t happen overnight, they implore their clients to not sell a thing for the first six months, during the pre-incubation and incubation periods. La Cocina gets more applications than they have room for and select those that they feel have what it takes to make it. It takes some capital and a lot of hard work; this is absolutely not a free ride. La Cocina now boasts an impressive raft of graduates who are a vibrant part of the Bay Area food scene.


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This article was published:
People Issue - Released February 2012
Issue 3 / Version 2 | Buy print copy here
Issue 11
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