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La Cocina Graduates: Where Are They Now?

You’ve seen La Cocina entrepreneurs selling their wares at the San Francisco Street Food Festival and at the La Cocina kiosk at the Ferry Building. But those aren’t the only places where you’ll find them. Many of the program graduates are opening up shops, restaurants and expanding their presence far and wide. 

El Huarache Loco
Veronica Salazar started  her business selling Mexico City style street food in 2005 and in 2006 joined the La Cocina program and El Huarache Loco became a regular fixture at the Alemany farmers market. She opened her restaurant in Larkspur and celebrated a first year in business in March of this year. According to the La Cocina annual report her business is now taking in a whopping $81,200 in sales each month. 

Onigilly
Koji Kanematsu moved from cart and catering to opening San Francisco’s first sit-down, bricks and mortar onigiri restaurant downtown in September of last year. Selling traditional Japanese rice balls tweaked for California tastes has clearly struck a cord with the lunch crowd, and he now employs twelve and has received offers to franchise his model.

La Luna Cupcakes
Also in the Financial District Elvia Buendia opened up a chic cupcake boutique in the Crocker Galleria just last month. Her beautiful cupcakes come in savory flavors like havarti, dill and smoked salmon and bacon, eggs and cheddar. Sophisticated sweet flavors include cupcakes inspired by tiramisu and tres leches cake. 

NeoCocoa
One of the first graduates, Christine Doerr says she is “busy being neo,” creating new confections on the heels of being named one of the top chocolatiers in America by Dessert Professional magazine. Her latest products were launched at the International Chocolate Salon last month, delicate handmade flavored marshmallows sandwiched between dark chocolate ganache. Wild cherry, espresso and s’mores flavors are available at the La Cocina kiosk. Meanwhile, her other truffles are selling briskly at most Whole Foods in the city as well as Bi-Rite, Rainbow Grocery, and Toque Blanche in Half Moon Bay. 

Love & Hummus
An overachiever and not quite yet a graduate, Donna Sky has seen tremendous growth in the sales and distribution of her all organic line of hummus. She’s proud of not just producing but sourcing all her products locally. Her hummus is available in 32 Whole Foods markets, Andronico’s, New Leaf markets, Berkeley Bowl and will be available at Williams Sonoma online starting in June and at their Artisan’s Market. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also busy gearing up for the launch of two new products early in June.