October 2017: Refuge

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Aisan Hoss

"Excerpts from The Pleasant Pain"

Aisan Hoss is a dancer and choreographer from Tehran, Iran. She started studying and performing Iranian dances at the age of twelve. At the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Contemporary Dance in London, Aisan completed a diploma in dance and a BA in Dance Theatre. At Trinity Laban, she found her passion for choreography and dance pedagogy, inspiring her to pursue her MFA in Dance and Choreography at Mills College. For Aisan, her passion for dance and choreography has been a means for gaining insight into her identity as an Iranian living outside of her home country. Inspired by modern Iranian culture, she gives voice to the quietest elements of her culture through choreography. Aisan joined La Cocina's Business Incubator program in 2016 in partnership with her husband, Mehdi. 


bonnie Tsui 

"The kitchen at st. anthony's never closes"

Bonnie Tsui is the author of AMERICAN CHINATOWN. She has written about Michelin street food, the Baghdad swim team, shark fin soup, and China's dancing grannies for The New York Times, California Sunday, the Atlantic, and Pop-Up Magazine. Recently, she appeared as a talking head in the documentary The Search for General Tso, to explain the curiously foreign-yet-familiar quality of Chinese-American food.  She is at work on her next book, WHY WE SWIM, to be published by Algonquin Books.


Chris Colin 

"The last noodle" 

Chris Colin has written about Japan’s rent-a-friend industry, Obama’s Irish roots, chimp filmmakers, ethnic cleansing, blind visual artists, solitary confinement, the Yelpification of the universe and much more for the, The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, and Pop-Up Magazine, among other publications.  He’s a contributing writer for California Sunday Magazine and Afar. He’s the author of What to Talk About,  What Really Happened to the Class of ’93, and Blindsight, named one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011.  In 2015, he co-wrote This Is Camino, which was nominated for a James Beard Award.


heena patel  

"This (indian) American life" 

Heena, a La Cocina entrepreneur since 2014, is the founder of Rasoi, featuring vegetarian food from Western India made from the finest local ingredients. Heena was born in Gujarat and immigrated to England before coming to the U.S. in 1992.



Geetika agrawal  

Geetika is the Senior Program Manager at La Cocina, supporting the entrepreneurs from recruitment to graduation and marveling at the fact that she goes to work every day to a kitchen full of strong female leaders who happen to make some of the best food she's ever eaten. Born to immigrant parents, migration has always been in Geetika's blood (itchy feet her grandmother would say). Her itchy feet have taken her to both coasts of America, London, India and scenic detours in between before she finally put down roots in her favorite city in the world, San Francisco. Geetika lives in the Mission with her hilarious husband, adorable baby, and a great jean jacket. 

 Photo by Bart Nagel

Photo by Bart Nagel


John birdsall 

"There Is A Disco Ball That Never Goes Out"  

John Birdsall is a food writer and the recipient of two James Beard Awards for food and culture writing. His work has appeared in Lucky Peach, Bon Appétit, Eater, Food & Wine, the SF Chronicle, and the queer food magazine Jarry. He is currently working on a comprehensive new biography of James Beard, to be published by W.W. Norton & Co.  For fifteen years prior to becoming a writer, John was a restaurant and catering cook, starting with an apprenticeship at Greens in Fort Mason.


mariko grady 

"Voice of the seed"

Mariko Grady is the founder of Aedan Fermented Foods. Mariko creates small-batch fermented products using the knowledge passed to her from her grandfather and mother in Japan. Mariko first began creating and selling fermented products in 2011 to fundraise for Japanese victims of the devastating tsunami in Japan. Mariko joined the La Cocina's incubator program in May 2012.


Savanna Ferguson 

"no known SUBSTITUTE" 

Savanna Ferguson is a writer and environmental consultant. She is currently working on a collection of linked essays, each of which is a case study in vice. She lives in San Francisco, where she can often be found leading tours of the San Francisco Botanical Garden.



shani jones

"Relax, You're Finally at Home"

Shani Jones is a San Francisco Native and owner of Peaches Patties, a Jamaican kiosk, born out of Shani's desire to share her mother's recipes from back home. Shani joined La Cocina in 2014.





Justin Phillips is a Food Writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, reporting on the Bay Area’s ever-changing restaurant industry. Before moving to the Bay Area, he covered city/state government issues and the energy industry for several publications in Louisiana including the American Press in Lake Charles where he was also an award-winning food columnist. Justin’s work has also appeared in the Contra Costa Times, the Tri Valley Herald and the Oakland Tribune.


mashama bailey

"A Time For Refuge"

Mashama Bailey is the executive chef of The Grey, an award-winning restaurant set in a former Greyhound bus terminal in Savannah, GA. Since opening in December 2014, The Grey has earned a number of accolades, including being named one of Food & Wine’s Restaurants of The Year, one of Eater’s 21 Best New Restaurants in America, one of Bon Appétit’s 50 nominees for Best New Restaurants in America, and a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s 2015 Best New Restaurant award, thanks in large part to Mashama’s flavorful dishes that highlight local and seasonal ingredients. Prior to opening The Grey with owner Johno Morisano, Mashama served under the tutelage of Gabrielle Hamilton at New York City’s Prune.


Hamed Aleaziz

Hamed Aleaziz is a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle covering immigration, race, and civil rights. He spent a year living in Amman Jordan.  Hamed's work has appeared in over 30 publications, including Miami Herald, Sacramento Bee, Mother Jones, San Antonio Express-News, Huffington Post, PBS Frontline, and Foreign Policy.  


Trevor Hall

“Soufra: a recipe from a refugee food truck”

Trevor Hall is the President and Creative Director of Rebelhouse creative agency and the Producer of the documentary SOUFRA. He is a three-time recipient of the Derek Bok Award for Excellence in Teaching at Harvard University. Trevor is also the Founder of Open Roads Creative, a personal consulting practice that helps companies and organizations use strategic storytelling to drive growth. Prior to founding Rebelhouse, Trevor was the President of Creative Visions Foundation, which helped hundreds of creative activists use media and the arts to ignite social change. Trevor was also the Co-Producer of the Narrative Feature Film Journey Is The Destination, the Associate Producer of the documentary features Frame By Frame, IMBA Means Sing, and Mile 19, and the Executive Producer of the short Johnny Physical Lives     

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Amy C. EvanS

"A Refugee Farmer Seeks Refuge After Hurricane Harvey"

Amy C. Evans in an award-winning artist, writer, and documentarian based in Houston, Texas. In 2013, she produced a documentary project for the Southern Foodways Alliance, featuring six women in La Cocina’s business incubator program. 

Visit to learn more about Amy and her work.

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Andrew Lam

“The Journey of Pho"

Andrew Lam, who came to America from Vietnam at the age of 11 at the end of the Vietnam War, is the author of two books of essays, "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora," and "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres." His latest book is "Birds of Paradise Lost," a collection of short stories.

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El Refugio de Silvia  

A San Francisco Chronicle Video