For many female chefs of color, inclusivity in the restaurant industry remains a glaring issue. “Even now, some people don’t know I’m the chef here. They’re looking for a man, or they’re looking for someone else. They’re not looking for someone who looks like me,” Mashama Bailey, the first African-American woman nominated for best chef at the James Beard Awards, previously told Mic. And a 2015 study by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that women of color earn $4 less than white men in restaurants in California — despite making up the highest percentage of both front-of-house and back-of- workers (and earning the lowest wages in both categories.)
By Josh Ocampo
But one nonprofit group wants to tackle this problem of inequality in the industry by creating San Francisco’s first food hall run only by women of color and immigrants. Ultimately, the goal is to provide those without enough resources with a chance to create their own restaurant space.
The food hall, named the La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, will occupy a long-abandoned, 7,000-square-foot post office in San Francisco and serve as a space for seven female chefs and bakers. The $5 million project is being partially funded by the city of San Francisco and is expected to open in spring 2019. The idea was proposed by nonprofit group La Cocina, which is an incubator for low-income entrepreneurs in the food space. According to Leticia Landa, La Cocina’s deputy director, the goal of the Municipal Marketplace will be to help aspiring female restaurant owners struggling with one of the largest problems in San Francisco: the rising price of real estate.
“Some landlords are incredible and generous and are excited to work with a food business that has years of experience and proven sales — but a lot of other landlords don’t care and just want a high rent number,” Landa said over the phone. “We realized if we could be the landlord, build out the space and create the space, then we would be able to provide these small businesses with the ability to make real money.”