Written by: Logan Cooper

With so much good food growing in the area, it’s no wonder that Watsonville is packed with as much culinary creativity as it is. Not wanting to miss out, we brought our usual event format over to the img_0787Watsonville Commercial Kitchen Incubator, where all sorts of foods entrepreneurs got chances to show off their wares.

Upon walking into the kitchen, everyone was immediately hit by the delicious aromas of Watsonville’s food: meat grilling, pastries baking, and mole simmering. Lucky for all of us that the smells came from the vendors’ samples. Guests could open with an appetizer of pita, hummus, falafel, and Greek yoghurt sauce from Oh-DIP-licsious before moving on to the heavier dishes: maybe some of Yolanda Ruiz’ chicken adobo, or a tostada from My Mom’s Mole, or, if you want to save some for later, one of Artisan Hand Food’s imaginative hand pies. For people who are still hungry after that, there were also Asada and Al Pastor tacos provided by Ballesteros Catering. For
img_0052desert, there was a choice between Radicle Nutrition’s organic gummy bears, il Biscotto’s Florentine cookies, and The Green Waffle’s healthy… green waffles. To wash it down, there was coffee from Hidden Fortress Coffee Roasting or, as always, Humble Sea Brewing’s craft brews.

Once everyone had a chance to sample the wares, everyone settled in to hear the night’s speakers. This part of the evening was kicked off by a musical performance by local guitarist, Doc Davidson. 

After him, came Ella King (read our interview with her here!) owner of Watsonville institutions Café Ella and Ella’s at the Airport. She told us how her restaurants started with a vision of a place in Watsonville that served the kind of fresh food that she enjoys so much, and that she only made her img_0766vision a reality through a lot of hard work, from finding locations, to sourcing local ingredients, to making all her food from scratch. (Watch her talk here)

Next came Ed Fordyce, fresh from making sample pies for his Artisan Hand Food stand. He described himself as a nomad who found a home in Watsonville. However, he wanted to shake up the world of portable food in Watsonville by offering something healthy and hearty. img_0774That was what inspired him to found Artisan Hand Foods on a mix of the pies that he grew up on and the flavors that he experienced while travelling the world. (Watch his talk here)

Jesus Madrigal got his start helping out at the Watsonville Farmers Market after being offered a job by his high school science teacher. The job required that he learn to drive a little early so he could get up and post flyers all around Watsonville – a pretty standard job for a high schooler, but he never stopped helping with the market, and helped to build it into what it is today. The market tries to capture the feel of a Mexican img_0793street market, while also showcasing the diverse heritage of Watsonville’s inhabitants. He finished by advising anyone who has never tried chapulines (toasted grasshoppers) to try them at the next farmers market. (Watch his talk here)

He was followed by Leslie Mora, a senior at Watsonville High School, and the representative of the Teen Kitchen Project. She spoke about how she started taking part in the project almost on a whim, but that through it, she was able to grow her love of food into a true passion for cooking. 

Last but not least, was Kasia Maslanka Smith of the food truck Ate3one. She first became interested img_0092in cooking by watching PBS cooking shows, because they were the only shows she could understand as a Polish-speaker growing up in the United States. Her first brush with professional cooking through, came much later, as she was going through a very rough patch in her life. She quickly found that the ‘normal’ path of professional cooking was not for her, and decided to buck it by opening a food truck, where she could be her own boss. With it, she hopes to give back to the community that has given her so much. (Watch her talk here)

Be sure not to miss our next event: Santa Cruz Live, on December 14th

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