Cocina Abierta Collective
Cocina Abierta is a nomadic experimental “test kitchen” run by a collective of Los Angeles based artists and restaurant workers. The collective’s public practice provides a platform for engaging restaurant workers and consumers in dialogue about the realities of food labor. They organize food based interventions such as communal cookouts, DIY cooking shows, and recipe swaps in collaboration with diverse community groups. Through these pedagogically driven engagements, the collective facilitates the fluid exchange of immigrant histories, culinary skills, and base building strategies towards the development of a worker-centered philosophy to eating ethically.
Cocina Abierta Collective was established in 2011 by Christina Sanchez Juarez and Cayetano Juarez. The collective is additionally comprised of a rotating roster of artists, restaurant professionals, community organizers, and educators. Rotating collaborators include Oakland Bautista, Erica Vasquez, Adrianna Sullivan, Zumi Mizokami, Eric Arce, Ariel Torres, Wanda Pathomrit, Mario Mesquita, Jacqueline Bell, and Kathy Gnaoh.
Below you will find summarized information about some of our projects. Please make sure to check the NEWS section of the website for updates.
Cocina Abierta + ROC LA Dinner Series
In the summer of 2015 the Cocina Abierta Collective and the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC LA) will embark on a dinner and conversation series. The dinners are organized by Cocina Abierta collaborators, both front of house and back of house workers, as well as allies and ROC LA staff. Each dinner will serve approximately 20-30 guests (predominantly restaurant workers) and will take place at various community spaces throughout the city of Los Angeles. Each dinner is centered around a different conversation theme and an accompanying thematic menu. For example, June's dinner asked guests to engage in a conversation about the effects of restaurant labor on the body, mind, and spirit. To compliment this conversation, guest Chefs Adrianna Sullivan and Cayetano Juarez designed a medicinally inspired menu featuring healing foods such as nopales which are respected by many cultures for their ability to lower blood sugar levels.
Cocina Abierta's Year Long Residency at Victoria Community Regional Park
Cocina Abierta is currently stationed at Victoria Park in Carson, California. We were commissioned by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and Los Angeles Parks and Recreation to spend a year investigating how food can deepen cross-cultural alliances in the park. Our approach has been to try to immerse ourselves in park culture as much as possible by attending the parks various sports games and dance classes, while simultaneously building relationships with park staff, coaches, and park users. We've contributed to community potlucks, built an advisory council for the project, and organized recipe swaps in the park to engage park users in conversations about the food traditions they cherish.
During the research and development phase, we kept our ears close to the ground in search of community members that were known for their cooking skills or their tendency to feed others. This research led us to propose the development of a community cooking show in the Victoria Park kitchen which began filming in May. Five community cooks were selected and paired up with restaurant workers from the Cocina Abierta Collective to film five separate cooking shows. Each show features a community cook showing a restaurant worker how to make a dish from start to finish, as well as a profile that depicts the community member engaged with their particular park community (e.g. softball, basketball, ballroom, etc.). During the cooking show portion of the profile, the restaurant workers serves as co-host, asking questions about technique, food history, cultural upbringing, and their relationship to the park. The profiles will be screened for the larger park community this fall.
Cocina Abierta Collective: Help Wanted, LACE Summer Residency Summer 2014
During their research-based residency at LACE, the collective prototyped designs and interventions for a mobile kitchen, using Hollywood as their testing grounds. This process allowed the collective to develop a series of events, such as private gatherings and public cooking demonstrations, that were used to gather restaurant workers, consumers, and Hollywood passers-by in conversations around the question, “what is ethical dining?” These roving interventions also served as spaces to acknowledge the immigrant and people of color workforce that sustain the Los Angeles restaurant industry, while providing a platform for the collective to document and bear witness to the stories of restaurant workers in Hollywood.
The Cocina Abierta Collective undertook these activities with support from the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA), a workers center serving restaurant workers, Thai CDC (Thai Community Development Center), which works to uplift low-income individuals in communities across the City of Los Angeles, and the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. The collective’s research in Hollywood formed the basis of an installation in LACE’s front gallery that was on view from July 31 through August 16, 2014.
This project is made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs. SPArt, a funding initiative that supports Los Angeles-based Social Practice Art projects, has funded the ongoing work of the Cocina Abierta Collective.
Please visit LACE website for more details: http://www.welcometolace.org/exhibitions/view/cocina-abierta-collective-help-wanted/
Download the Jacqueline Bell's curitorial essay here.
Home Visits, Spring 2014
Cocina Abierta comes over for dinner armed with a notebook, a camera, and a voice recorder. Home cooks from diverse immigrant backgrounds teach us how to cook one dish which is tied to their ancestry or concept of home. Cayetano works with the home cooks to "style" their dish in preparation for a final photograph of the dish. Special thanks to home cooks Ova Saopeng, Ranjini Richards, Esperanza Mendez, and Octavia Hernandez for letting us enter thier kitchens.
Cooking Demonstration+Recipe Exchange, Spring 2014
The Cocina Abierta team hosted a cooking demonstation and recipe exchange at St. John's Well Child and Family Center's inauguration of their new health campus in South LA. Photos by Joanna Kidd. Special thanks to ROC LA's Kathy Hoang for coming out and supporting us for the day.
Cocina Abierta is made possible through a generous grant from SPArt. SPArt is a funding initiative that supports Los Angeles-based Social Practice Art projects. They provide financial resources to artists who intend to create social change through socially engaged art.