Executive Director: Caleb Zigas
Caleb was accidentally hired as an assistant pastry chef at Ruppert’s Restaurant, in his hometown of Washington DC, when he was 16 years old, and hasn’t left the kitchen since. He has worked dish lines at national chains, service counters for independent butcher shops and front of the house for some of the best restaurants in the country (and some of the worst too). After graduating from the University of Michigan with degrees in English and Globalization and Culture, Caleb interned with ProMujer in El Alto Bolivia, learning about microfinance in its infancy and bringing those programming lessons to bear at La Cocina when it opened its doors in 2005.
Since joining La Cocina, Caleb has had a hand in shaping the incubator program as it has achieved national recognition. Caleb’s work on the program curriculum and social entrepreneurship innovation has been celebrated by the Hitachi Foundation when they named him a Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneur and by Inc. Magazine’s recognition as one of 5 Community Organizers making a difference. More recently, Caleb was behind La Cocina’s San Francisco Street Food Festival and Conference which ultimately led to involvement in the legislation changes that brought increased mobile vending opportunities to San Francisco. He has been named one of San Francisco’s Tastemakers by 7×7 Magazine, though he might be as proud that before that he was named Best Waiter in San Francisco. Bilingual, a trained diversity leader, HACCP Certified and a California Food Safety Manager, Caleb’s combination of food industry experience and commitment to social justice is what helps defines La Cocina, recently named 2011 Best Small Businesses by the San Francisco Bay Gardian.
Caleb brings a love of food and a passion for social justice to La Cocina and a belief that everyone deserves an opportunity to make a living doing what they love to do.
contact: (415) 824-2729, ext. 304
favorite foods: chicken soup, steamed pork buns, molletes and nearly anything with miso.
Programs and Development Manager: Leticia Landa
Leticia learned about La Cocina in her last week of college when she read an article about El Huarache Loco in The New York Times. After moving to San Francisco to work at a foundation she visited La Cocina’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market booth a couple of times and decided it was an organization she wanted to volunteer for. Coincidentally, she met Valeria (the Executive Director at the time) at a Holiday Party and instead of becoming a volunteer she began as a staff member in February 2008.
Leticia studied Anthropology at Harvard and has a background international nonprofit work–she has lived in rural Northern India and rural Southwestern China working and studying agricultural poverty and its effects on women. She also completed the first year of culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and worked on the line at Jeffrey’s Restaurant in Austin, Texas where she grew up. She is fluent in Spanish and French and (increasingly less) conversant in Mandarin Chinese.
Since joining La Cocina, Leticia has been named one of San Francisco’s Tastemakers by 7×7 Magazine and was named a Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneur by the Hitachi Foundation for her work on the program curriculum and social entrepreneurship. As Programs and Development Manager, Leticia oversees the Mobile Foods project and the Business Incubator and works with staff to set goals with all entrepreneurs around business growth and access to capital and market opportunities.
Leticia brings a passion for the kitchen to La Cocina and a true belief in the power of small food-base businesses in transforming people’s lives.
contact: (415) 824-2729, ext. 306
favorite foods: chilaquiles, quiche and the perfect brownie
Operations Director: Annemarie Brown
When Annemarie was five years old she insisted that from that day on her birthday cake would always be Chocolate Cheesecake with a sour cream frosting. And thus her career began. As her friends continued to eat the cupcakes other regular kids enjoyed, Annemarie dove into a life of food and entrepreneurship, launching not just any lemonade stand at the age of 8, but one made with omagles.
After graduating from the University of Virginia, Annemarie (or AMB, depending on how much you like to type), moved to the Bay Area to pursue her twin passions. She held the position of Director of Event Production for Paula LeDuc Fine Catering where she managed a $3M budget and managed events as far-ranging as private parties for Oprah to 6,000 people celebrations. Pursuing her passion for community building, Annemarie joined the team at Destiny Arts Center as Deputy Director where she has also served on the board.
Annemarie was one of the founders of the San Francisco Street Food Festival, worked for years at Shenaningans Toy Stores and can build just about anything with her hands. She brings event productions experience, food industry knowledge and management to the La Cocina team, along with Chocolate Cheesecake.
contact: o (415) 824-2729 ext 305 – m (415) 857-3927
Favorite Foods: wild nettles, fried chicken, sushi, and any lemon dessert
Business Development Manager: Geetika Agrawal
As she graduated to using more edible ingredients, Geetika developed a passion for turning creative ideas into great businesses. With a Computer Science degree from Stanford, Geetika started and ran a software incubator at IBM. Launching new products got her hooked on entrepreneurship.
At NYU Stern, Geetika focused her MBA on Social Impact & Innovation, while working with investors and entrepreneurs around the globe. At Acumen Fund, she managed the agriculture portfolio, defining investment strategies to help small holding farmers in India. In London, Geetika worked with community development organization Bootstrap to bring in new revenue and expand community impact, including co-launching the New York Times notable Dalston Roof Park. She helped start Kitchenette, a London incubator inspired by La Cocina. Back home in San Francisco, Geetika co-organizes Soup SF, a real life kick-starter for creative community projects.
As the Business Development Manager, Geetika is excited to be supporting amazing entrepreneurs, leading growth initiatives, and sharing delicious food.
contact: (415) 824-2729
Favorite Foods: Raspberries, Cookies, Her mom’s Palak Paneer, and anything smothered in peanut butter.
Program Coordinator: Daniella Sawaya
Daniella’s love of food stems from early days spent helping her father and grandmother cook traditional Middle Eastern and Latin American cuisine, as well as impromptu eating contests at family parties. From an early age, these experiences instilled in her a passion for cooking, a willingness to try anything, and a firm belief in the power of food to bring together individuals, families and communities.
She received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, with an emphasis on Design and Urbanism in Developing Countries. Daniella worked with the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Cochabamba, Bolivia, improving accessibility at a farm for children with disabilities. She also worked on a slum-upgrade project in the Mathare River Valley in Nairobi Kenya, in which she collaborated with university students, a local NGO, and the community to propose plans for community infrastructure, housing, and river rehabilitation.
Combining her background in urban studies and her love of international fare, Daniella has wholeheartedly embraced La Cocina’s advocacy for street food vending. She believes that street food offers some of the most delicious and authentic dishes of a place and, as an integrated part of the urban fabric, offers a vital market opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Daniella is fluent in Spanish and Italian, and conversant in Portuguese. She also paints a mean fresco.
contact: (415) 824-2729, ext. 303
Favorite Foods:Macaroni and cheese, runny yolk, maduros, and curry (from every part of the world)
Catering + Retail Manager: Angela McKee
Angela is in charge of the Ferry Building Kiosk, the La Cocina catering program, and gift basket distribution.
As a native Texan, Angela believes in a good pot of chili and doesn’t mind humidity (it gives her hair a little extra curl). Angela has faith in the power of food to unite communities and will always sit down to chat over a homemade meal. Before joining La Cocina, Angela worked with Food & Wine magazine in New York, managed a restaurant in Los Angeles, and has worked in marketing with an economic consulting firm.
Angela completed her BA in Anthropology at The George Washington University and holds a Master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University. Her graduate work focused on the role of food in television and the provocation of cravings. This led to extensive research into what makes food products appealing to the public and a deep understanding of product packaging.
Angela has come in second place in a pie eating contest, loves Tapatio, and is a huge fan of Hillary Clinton. She loves traveling and eating, and is always in search of interesting flavors. At La Cocina, Angela is committed to seeing the success of all La Cocina participants and is focused on creating retail spaces that will promote the advancement of our clients products.
Also, feel free to call her Angie.
Favorite Foods: Tex-Mex fajitas, peach cobbler, chicken fried steak, and peas
Contact: o (415) 824-2729 ext 308 – m (415) 729-4565
Interim Kitchen + Facilities Manager: Marcella Lew
At the age of 7, when most kids were watching cartoons or dreaming of being ballerina-dancing soccer players, Marcella Lew was at home, watching Julia Childs line terrines with caul fat. The child of immigrant parents from Canton, China, food has always been a central part of Marcella’s life, as have the people who make it.
A graduate of California Culinary Academy, Marcella began her professional career at OrItalia, Bruce Hill’s fusion restaurant, working her way from pantry to prep. From there, she’s learned, cooked and loved at places like Hawthorne Lane, MC Squared, Kokkari, Nopa, Nopalita and, most recently, one of the Google Cafes.
Marcella is a fluent Cantonese speaker (old and new dialects) and loves seeing people make a living making food they love.
contact: (415) 323-5539
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Since she was a little kid Carola loved making a mess in the kitchen, especially while baking her grandmother’s cake recipes! She still enjoys making a mess in her own kitchen while cooking and baking. Originally from Spain, Carola holds a Bachelor’s degree in Art History and Design. Her professional life started in the art world in Italy where she worked for Art Foundations organizing exhibitions and then transitioned to Interior Design. Carola opened and ran her own design studio in Barcelona.
When she moved to San Francisco, she decided to study Marketing and she collaborated with Applications for Good supporting the power of technology to empower women, entrepreneurship, education and conflict resolution. She also volunteered for Inneract project as TA teacher building community through design.
She joined La Cocina last September as an intern and is now on staff and excited to participate in the community of women and entrepreneurship.
Carola is fluent Spanish, Catalan and Italian.
Favorite Foods: Gazpacho and surf and turf.
contact: (415) 824-2729