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Kosher Cocina

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It seems weird on the first day of Hispanic Latino Heritage Month to associate a story about local Latino restaurant workers with a picture of Kosher Deli food but it'll all come together in a second. Forward (free registration required) has a great in-depth story about Rene Baroana and Juan Martinez, the butcher and top cook at Pico Kosher Deli. Martinez, an immigrant from Mexico, speaks limited English but is fluent in Hebrew, having spent his entire professional career working in the Jewish restaurant. The story mostly looks at how the cultures cross-pollinate (although it seems to be a one sided pollination with the mostly Latino staff knowing about Kosher cooking and Hebrew words but little mention of their culture being embraced the other way) but also talks about how the mostly undocumented Latino food labor force is underpaid and has little recourse to deal with the inequities.

LAist knows that most of the people in the kitchens of our favorite eateries, no matter the food's ethnic background, are Latino cooks and crews, many of whom work two and three different food service jobs to pay their bills and send money back home. Our local fast-food sushi spot features a Korean sushi chef and three Spanish-speaking cooks. Martinez, in the article, has to take three buses to work for $500 a week - a job he has had for 21 years - because he is undocumented and thus, can't get a driver's license.

Something about that stinks to us.

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photo by Henry Faber.