Author: Media Director/Saturday, August 13, 2022/Categories: Past Programs
La Cocina, Nonprofit Food Business Incubator --
The Nexus of Great Food
Economic Power and Bay Area Women
La Cocina was born out of a belief that a community of naturally talented entrepreneurs, given the right resources, can create self-sufficient businesses that benefit themselves, their families, their community, and our Region. The food that has come out of La Cocina’s kitchen since 2005 reflects that aspiration, and, quite simply, it tastes incredible. The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses. To date, the organization has incubated more than 130 food businesses, graduated nearly 60 entrepreneurs, supported the launch of over 30 brick-and-mortar locations around the Bay Area (with many recognized on national best restaurants lists), opened the nation’s first women-led food hall, and published a cookbook, We Are La Cocina.
Deborah Alvarez Rodriguez
Executive Director, La Cocina
Deborah’s work began at age two; her job was to set out the napkins and talk with the guests at her mother’s Puerto Rican restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents immigrated from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and each day Deborah's mother Aurelia reminded her six children to be proud of their Puerto Rican and U.S. cultures. The restaurant Aurelia started was about more than serving delicious food; it was a place of community building, sharing stories, and a refuge from anti-immigrant racism. Deborah developed her entrepreneurial mindset and a deep commitment to creating pathways for economic security and freedom through business ownership in her mother’s restaurant. She is thrilled to be joining La Cocina as its next executive director -- this is work that her heart knows.
Experienced in nonprofit, philanthropy, business, and government sectors, Deborah is an award-winning CEO, a social sector innovator, and an advocate for systemic policy reforms focused on racial, economic, and environmental equity and justice. Known for shaping inclusive models of collaborative engagement, Deborah has been featured in several books on leadership, including The Starfish and the Spider and The Ultimate Board Member’s Book. She has a TedTalk on the Revalue Economy.
Deborah served as the CEO of Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin, where she transformed and doubled the organization’s revenue, services, influence, and impact in the community. She was also the founder and CEO of Seam Innovation, a strategic innovation, and management consultancy. Deborah’s other past positions include:
She has served on numerous boards, including Recology, the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, Pacific School of Religion, Independent Sector, Goodwill Industries International, East Bay Community Foundation, Cordes Foundation, the Harwood Institute, and San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Deborah holds a Master of Divinity in environmental ethics and theology from the Pacific School of Religion and a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American History from Harvard University. Deborah is bilingual in English and Spanish. She is the proud mother of her daughter Sonia.
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