Elizabeth and Aaron Scott of Metcalfe, Mississippi, acquired a tamale recipe from a Mexican immigrant in Texas. George Sarris arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, from Tsitalia, Greece, opened a seafood restaurant, and put red velvet cake on the menu.  Argentina Ortega, owner of La Sabrosita Bakery in Richmond, Virginia, left Sensuntepeque, El Salvador, in search of a better life. She sewed drapes for money while also attending baking classes and looking after her three sons.

Their stories are our stories. They are the stories of the Global South, told through food. Which is why we traveled to San Francisco to visit with female culinary entrepreneurs whose stories mirror the ones already in our archive.

Stories like Chiefo Chukwudebe’s. Daughter of a Nigerian-born father and a Texan mother, Chiefo’s mission is to celebrate the food and culture of West Africa. Southerners will recognize her ingredients. One of the dishes she makes is akara, black-eyed pea fritters served with warm sweet corn custard.

Fernay McPherson is a San Francisco native with deep ties to the South. In 2013, she launched a soul food truck, Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement. On her menu: gumbo, hot water cornbread, caramel cake, and sweet tea.

Alicia Villanueva, Olivia Velazquez, and Maria del Carmen Flores came to the United States in search of opportunity and to make better lives for their children. Their sheer determination and perseverance are inspiring. Their tamales, pupusas, and ceviche connect us all.

Our partner for this project is La Cocina, a non-profit organization in San Francisco that mentors low-income and immigrant women entrepreneurs to start and grow food businesses. All of the women featured here graduated from its program. They followed their dreams and never backed down. They are the Women at Work in San Francisco.

TAGS: Alicia Villanueva, California, Chiefo Chukwudebe, Fernay McPherson, gender, Global South, Immigration, Maria del Carmen Flores, Olivia Velazquez, Women at Work in San Francisco