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La Cocina Reopens as Commercial Kitchen in the Tenderloin After Food Hall Closure

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Chef Daniel Morales and Laura Gelvez prepare tuna nachos for Morales' fusion restaurant pop-up, Pacifico, at La Cocina, a shared-use commercial kitchen in San Francisco, on May 24. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Things are sizzling again at the corner of Hyde Street and Golden Gate Avenue.

La Cocina, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps primarily immigrants and people of color create and run their own food businesses in the Bay Area, announced Thursday it has reopened as a catering kitchen after closing its popular food hall in the same Tenderloin location last fall.

Chefs like Daniel Morales are now renting out kitchen equipment and counter space at the 7,000-square-foot space. On a recent Friday, he and partner Lau Gelvez spent the afternoon testing menu items like tuna ceviche-style nachos to sell at this year’s Outside Lands Music Festival — a first for the Latin American food pop-up the couple started last year, called Pacifico.

“We’ve done private catering and events, and it’s been wonderful. But it’s a tough industry, you know. So we just need to keep pushing and doing all these festivals, street fairs, catering, pop-ups and everything,” Morales told KQED over a pot of frying corn tortilla chips.


After more than two years of operation, La Cocina shuttered its public cafeteria-style food hall in September. The organization cited economic struggles in the neighborhood and changing dining patterns from customers after the pandemic as reasons for closing—all challenges facing the city’s downtown business core and surrounding restaurants that rely on hungry lunch breakers.

“Places like the Marketplace can’t live on admiration alone,” Leticia Landa, executive director of La Cocina, told KQED. “Post-COVID, we thought we would turn a corner and see more foot traffic, but that never happened.”

Since then, the organization has been working with the city to reformat the space to serve as a catering facility for immigrant food entrepreneurs in the nonprofit’s business development program, which provides training and resources in business development, permitting, marketing and other elements of the food industry.

Chef Daniel Morales prepares a tuna nacho with beet-infused tapioca for his restaurant pop-up, Pacifico, at La Cocina in San Francisco. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Landa said the shared-use kitchen is more financially sustainable than a public-facing marketplace, largely due to having a much lower need for staff. At the time it closed the food hall, La Cocina’s director said the business was spending around $209,000 every month while bringing in about $24,000 and relying on grants and support from the city to make up the difference.

“In order to be open to the public, we had to have three security guards, a bartender, and service staff at all times,” Landa said. “So the biggest saving is on staffing.”

La Cocina on Hyde is the organization’s second catering facility, alongside the 19-year-old La Cocina on Folsom.

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Morales, the owner of Pacifico, has worked out of La Cocina on Folsom but said it can be difficult to book space on busy days and having more space is welcome. He also lives within walking distance from the Tenderloin kitchen — a commute he prefers to the combined bus and BART ride to the other kitchen.

“It was kind of sad to see the marketplace closed, but it’s understandable too,” he said. “For me, having the community kitchen is better right now so we can just operate,” he said, referring to how space was less flexible in the food hall.

An initial 13 businesses are permitted and planning to work out of the new production facility, according to La Cocina.

“The way they have it set up on Hyde Street, because it was a food hall, they have all these almost private kitchens if you will, and that is so exciting,” Karla Rosales-Barrios, a La Cocina participant who owns Pass the Sauced, told KQED. “I like this idea that I can be with my community and my colleagues, and at the same time, I’m doing my own thing, and nobody’s invading my space.”

Chefs like Julieta Del Rio of Tilín Tilín and Norka Hernandez of Suyos are among the first cohort planning to use the space, which La Cocina participants can rent out for $15 per hour.

“Suyos means regions, and my vision is to bring regional Peruvian cuisine to the Bay Area and San Francisco with my own style and California ingredients,” Hernandez said from La Cocina on Hyde while slicing up limes for a citrusy marinade inspired by Nikkei, a Japanese-Peruvian cuisine.

Chef Norka Hernandez prepares shrimp ceviche for her pop-up restaurant Suyos at La Cocina in San Francisco. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

But even the new shared kitchen will be temporary. The city owns the building, and the marketplace was originally created as a pilot. La Cocina on Hyde’s lease was recently extended to December 2026, and its site is still slated to be used for affordable housing after that.

The city has not yet identified a developer for that project, however, and expects to by the end of the lease term, according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

“We built it knowing that it was temporary, and it felt worth it still because it felt like this really cool opportunity for us to pilot actually having control of some real estate and being able to provide that to our entrepreneurs and figure out what that looks like,” Landa said.

The seven food businesses previously working out of the food hall have since moved on to open their own kiosks in the Ferry Building, stalls at farmers markets and full-service restaurants.

The long-term future of the kitchen on Hyde is uncertain, but it’s already inspiring entrepreneurs like Rosales-Barrios for their next step.

“What I would love is, at some point, be able to have a team; that is what I’ve been dreaming about,” she said, “because being a small business is already hard enough.

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