Downtown diners can now order fried chicken, hot plantains, vegan birria tacos and more from up-and-coming local chefs at the BellaVista restaurant in Stockton each weekday.
Four chefs chosen for their enterprising business pitches and trained by the nonprofit Stockton Community Kitchen officially launched their restaurants at BellaVista’s International Food Hub on Thursday.
‘I wanted to stay within my community’
“I saw a need for more vegan options in my community,” said Jennifer Vazquez, a chef whose business, Comida de Jen, serves vegan Mexican cuisine at the food hub.
Since she was 15, Vazquez had worked as a restaurant server. But when the pandemic hit, Vazquez lost her job.
Around the same time, Vazquez became interested in food pop-ups. She applied for the Community Kitchen program and received training in running a food business, from accounting to legal matters.
Now, Vazquez has the opportunity to share vegan options with the community from a large, fully furnished restaurant space in the heart of downtown Stockton.
“I wanted to stay within my community,” she said. “Not only was (the space) in Stockton, but within downtown Stockton … (which) has so much potential.
“It felt like such a dream.”
The Community Kitchen focuses in particular on mentoring women, according to the program’s founder Rima Barkett, who also owns BellaVista.
“I think that women hold the family together,” Barkett said. Women’s status must improve for conditions in Stockton as a whole to improve, she said.
In downtown Stockton: Haitian, soul food and more coming to BellaVista food hub
Potential chefs go through a detailed application process, and representatives of the program try their cooking, Barkett said. Then, they undergo a year-long training process.
“Starting a new thing is not easy,” she said. “We need to spread the word.”
In addition to in-person dining, you can order delivery and takeout from the International Food Hub through its menu website.
The application to participate in the Community Kitchen can be found here.
If you go
What: Stockton Community Kitchen’s International Food Hub
Where: 110 N. El Dorado St., Stockton
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday
Record reporter Aaron Leathley covers business, housing, and land use. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @LeathleyAaron. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.
This article originally appeared on The Record: Local chefs serve global cuisines at Stockton Community Kitchen hub