Culinary Connections - Remembering The Sacredness Of Food
Food has the power to connect us all, but the pandemic has taken a severe toll on food systems workers and revealed cracks in the industry overall. How can we use food to heal from our collective trauma and how do we use the insights gained over these most recent years to center the sacredness of food and the making of it? On December 7, join Jocelyn Ramirez (she/her), founder of Todo Verde, as she leads a discussion with women who are working in this space. She’ll talk with Melissa Acedera (she/her), of Polo’s Pantry and Home-y Made Meals, and Across Our Kitchen Tables co-founders Valeria Velazquez Duenas (she/her) and Claudia Serrato (she/her) about the lessons they’ve learned through the pandemic and what they’re doing to put the focus on the sacred nature of food.
We’ll also get a demonstration (video below) on how to make seasonal Indigenous pudding with butternut squash and corn milk from Claudia, along with a discussion on decolonized cuisine as a way to nourish our bodies and spirits. Everyone who attends will get a copy of the recipe and a chance to taste this delicious treat!
ABOUT JOCELYN RAMIREZ
Jocelyn Ramirez is a plant-based chef, cookbook author, yoga instructor, entrepreneur and advocate for healthy food access in her community. She is the founder of todo verde, one of LA’s acclaimed plant-based Mexican food businesses.
As Jocelyn navigated through many of her family’s health issues, she was astounded by the lack of access to healthy good food in low income communities of color across Los Angeles. She founded Todo Verde in 2015 with a mission to create delicious and healthy plant-based food inspired by her Mexican-Ecuadorian roots, and left her career in higher education to pursue a new path in foodways related to culture and tradition. She offers knowledge on healthy living with the community through workshops, dialogues, and food demonstrations.
In 2020, she published her first cookbook, La Vida Verde: Plant-Based Mexican Cooking with Authentic Flavor, which was an instant Amazon best-seller. In 2021, Jocelyn opened Todo Verde as the official concessionaire for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Ford Theatre venue, creating the first plant-forward major concert venue in the city. Her newly-launched product line of culturally relevant seasoning in carnitas, al pastor, and tinga are the first extension of the brand to be sold at retail.
Jocelyn's background includes degrees in fine art, design and business and has also trained at the Matthew Kenney Culinary Institute. Her work has been featured in several press outlets including NY Times, LA Times, Food & Wine, Vice, Smithsonian, Bon Appetit, and more. She is currently a recipe contributor for NYT Cooking, and sits on the culinary advisory board for Food Forward and the leadership board for the Los Angeles Food Policy Council.
ABOUT MELISSA ACEDERA
Melissa Acedera is the daughter of Filipino immigrants who set their roots in Los Angeles, California. She is a community organizer working in the intersection of food justice and houselessness issues. Melissa has over 13 years experience working in food research, compliance, and logistics in food and beverage. Bridging her knowledge of food systems from a corporate lens and her work in community organizing, Melissa has a unique and valuable understanding of food, environmental, and housing justice issues.
As a response to food scarcity and injustices she saw while organizing in Skid Row and other areas in Los Angeles, Melissa founded Polo’s Pantry in 2018, a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting for just futures in food systems through mutual aid, advocacy, and community building. She also co-founded Home-y Made Meals in March 2020, a mutual aid network of cooks, drivers, and suppliers — a community-powered food system helping feed unhoused and food insecure communities across L.A. and Orange County.
Melissa lost her father to complications from Type 2 diabetes almost two decades ago. Bridging her own lived experience of hunger and poverty, this rooted her passion in building healthy food access and knowledge building in immigrant and poor communities. This has helped her navigate complex issues in food with more depth and care – and advocating for solution building led by people with lived experiences.
ABOUT VALERIA VELAZQUEZ DUENAS
Valeria Velazquez Duenas (she/her/hers) is Senior Manager of Farmers’ Market Programs at SEE-LA where she focuses on equitable food access initiatives that connect low-income Angelenos to fresh and affordable locally grown produce, and strengthening small food businesses through the Seasoned Accelerator. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Good Food Economy Working Group for the LA Food Policy Council. Prior to joining SEE-LA, Valeria worked in low-income and affordable housing and later spent time as a plant-based pop-up and private chef. Through her food based work she has participated in cultural events in the L.A. area including Pacific Standard Time LA/LA in 2017 and Current: LA Food in 2019. She also co-founded Across Our Kitchen Tables, an event series focused on women of color working in food, which has been featured in Eater and Univision. Valeria received an M.A. in Social Entrepreneurship which provided her time and resources to learn more about the global food system, along with systems change through culture and arts which included work on Girls United: Haiti Through Our Eyes, in Port-au-Prince. She considers herself fortunate to have witnessed and taken part in Southern California culture her whole life, and was born in Orange, CA to immigrant parents. She has called L.A. County home since 2004.
ABOUT CLAUDIA SERRATO
Claudia Serrato is an Indigenous culinary anthropologist, a public scholar, a doctoral candidate, and a professor of ethnic studies. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California predominantly on a P’urhépecha, Huasteca, and Zacateco diet. At an early age, she began to cook alongside her elders, gaining time-tested food knowledge.
Claudia centered these knowledges in her academic studies, arriving at the conclusion in 2007 that decolonizing the diet was essential to the survival of Indigenous foods and foodways. This granted her numerous opportunities to present, speak, publish, and facilitate workshops in her community, educational institutions, and conferences gaining national and public recognition.
In addition, since 2014 Claudia has been actively involved in the Native food justice and sovereignty movement and has been cooking alongside prominent Indigenous chefs at cultural food gatherings, summits, and pop-ups throughout Turtle Island (North America). Claudia was a featured chef at the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society and the Association for the Study of Food and Society Conference in 2018 and in 2015 was granted an honorary title of sous-chef de cuisine by the Native American Culinary Association.
She has been invited to speak on public radio and podcast programming such as Feminist Magazine, Animal Voices, Toasted Sister, and Native American Calling. Claudia has also been featured by the LA Times Food Bowl, LA Ford Philharmonic Association, New York Times, New York Times Cooking channel, ABC Primetime, Univision, Popsugar., and REMEZCLA.
She is co-founder of Across Our Kitchen Tables, a women of color culinary hub and event series founded in 2017 that generates and supports socially responsible food-based work by women of color.
Claudia holds a stream of degrees starting with a Bachelor’s degree in Gender, Ethnicity, and Multicultural Studies, a Master’s in Mexican American Studies, a second Master’s in Anthropology, and is currently completing a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is currently a teaching scholar at California Polytechnic University Pomona (Cal Poly). Claudia lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.
This project is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Department of Arts and Culture.
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