Every March for the past three years, La Cocina — the Mission District’s women-, immigrant-, and POC-focused kitchen incubator — has held a week’s worth of prix fixe dinners that pair up-and-coming chefs currently enrolled in La Cocina’s program with an established Bay Area star chef. According to La Cocina deputy director Leticia Landa, the idea behind the so-called Week of Women in Food is, to put it simply, “celebrating women in the industry,” and the event has featured some of the biggest names in the Bay Area restaurant world — folks like Gabriela Cámara, Sarah Rich, and Belinda Leong.
This year’s rendition, which will run from March 2–8, will serve a second purpose: It will also be a splashy public introduction for the chefs who will helm the Tenderloin’s highly anticipated La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, which touts itself as the country’s “first women-led food hall.”
Though La Cocina hasn’t exactly kept the identities of the chefs who will run that marketplace’s seven permanent kiosks a secret (their names have long been listed on its website), the Mission-based kitchen incubator has not yet done an official rollout of that lineup. This year’s Week of Women in Food event will essentially serve as that introduction to those chefs:
- Estrellita Gonzalez of Estrellita’s Snacks, whose Salvadoran kiosk will focus on dishes like handmade pupusas, curtido, and Salvadoran-style tamales. On March 2, she’ll team up with chef Casey Rebecca Nunes of Media Noche, the fast-casual Cuban spot, for a dinner at El Buen Comer. [$65]
- Tiffany Carter of Boug Cali, which specializes in California Creole cuisine: gumbo, shrimp po’ boys, and Vietnamese American-inspired garlic noodles. On March 3, she’ll be cooking with La Cocina alum Nite Yun at Nyum Bai, Yun’s Cambodian restaurant in Oakland. [$75]
- Binita Pradhan of Bini’s Kitchen — one of the more established chefs of the bunch, with two other locations already open, Pradhan is already fairly famous, city-wide, for her momos and other Nepalese dishes. On March 4, she’s be cooking with Mariko Grady of Aeden Fermented Foods and the female-led kitchen staff of Mourad (the Michelin-starred Moroccan restaurant) at her own Howard Street restaurant. [$100, or $75 if you reserve early]
- Dilsa Lugo of Los Cilantros is another veteran chef who has run the Berkeley location of her Mexican restaurant since 2014. It’s known for its mole, ceviche, and various masa-based dishes. On March 5, she’ll team up with La Cocina grad Veronica Salazar of El Huarache Loco and the team at Sonoma’s El Molino Central for an all-Mexican feast at Lugo’s Berkeley restaurant. [$75]
- Nafy Flatley of Teranga, which up until this point has mostly been known for its Senegalese-inspired juices and energy bars, both of which prominently feature baobab fruit. The kiosk will sell those items, but it’ll also offer full Senegalese meals like the peanut stew known as mafé (pictured above) and ndambe, a spicy, chili-like stew of black-eyed peas. On March 6, she’ll be doing a Senegalese-Indian mashup with Juhu Beach Club’s Preeti Mistry at Alameda’s Almanac Beer Co. [$65]
- Wafa and Mounir Bahloul of Kayma, an Algerian restaurant — perhaps the first in the city to explicitly identify as such — run by a husband-and-wife team who will serve dishes like ras el hanout grilled lamb, couscous, and various stews. On March 7, they’ll be cooking with a chef to be named soon at Cerf Club [$100, or $75 if you reserve early]
- Guadalupe Moreno of Mi Morena, which specializes in tacos filled with Mexico City-style guisados — a chicken tinga taco, for instance, or one topped with eggs and nopales. On March 8, International Women’s Day, she’ll be heading up the event’s closing party along with Mayra Velazquez of the Oakland Mexican popup sensation Xingones. [$45]
All of the dinners will have a single seating at 6:30 p.m. In addition to the seven chefs and restaurants listed above, the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace will also have an eighth food stall that will probably operate on some kind rotating or pop-up basis, Landa says.
For the Week of Women in Food dinners, La Cocina has always encouraged the paired-up chefs to collaborate with each other — though depending on the chefs and cuisines represented, those collaborations might take different forms. In one past dinner, Landa recalls, El Pipila’s Guadalupe Guerrero partnered with B. Patisserie’s Belinda Leong, who made several desserts featuring the fruit of the nopal, a central ingredient in Guerrero’s Guanajuato-style cuisine. In another, she says, the chefs at Rich Table pan-fried Pradhan’s momos and put “really crazy, amazing stuff” underneath.
Both Carter (of Boug Cali) and Flatley (Teranga) told Eater SF that they haven’t nailed down their menus yet, but that they’d like to create at least one fusion dish with their partner chef. After all, Flatley — who’s teaming up with Preeti Mistry — remembers eating Indian food in Berkeley for the first time as a recent immigrant and thinking to herself, “Oh my god, this tastes just like Senegalese food.” She notes that both Senegalese cooking and Indian cooking make liberal use of ingredients like tamarind and turmeric. And Carter, who says she became friends with Nyum Bai’s Nite Yun about 10 years ago, long before either one of them joined La Cocina, thinks some kind of Creole-Cambodian ramen might make for a fun mash-up dish.
As for the marketplace itself — now two years in the making — Landa says La Cocina is still just waiting for construction on the building to finish. Once that wraps up, hopefully by the end of April, it’ll take another month or so for the vendors to build out and set up their own individual kiosks within the food hall. If all goes according to plan, the kiosks will open on a private, limited basis — focusing on inviting businesses and nonprofits within the Tenderloin — sometime in the early summer, and then officially open to the public sometime in August or September.