Soul Cocina's Roger Feely Talks About Why He Works Legit

Categories: 'Eat' Extra
Feely_pic.jpg
Kimberly Sandie
Roger Feely, aka Soul Cocina, is one of the senior street cart vendors I interviewed for today's "Eat" column. Feely has cooked professionally for more than a decade, so he's far more familiar with the world of communal kitchens and restaurant inspections than many of people he works with. Here's an extract from our interview last week, when the perennially busy Feely talked about why he rents kitchen space at La Victoria Bakery instead of cooking at home.

SFoodie: How did you get started in the street cart movement, and then at La Victoria?

Feely: I started doing a food cart in June 2009, when Magic Curry Kart had an event. It was a mixer: street food for singles. I never knew him, but I'd heard of his brother, Creme Brulee Cart. I was doing catering with Living Room Events [which also runs Kitchenette], but I wasn't working that day. So I decided to go out and make some food. I didn't even see Magic Curry Kart before I showed up. They were open and welcoming, and we started a friendship. I started using Twitter a few weeks after that, and going out to all the events. At that time there was probably one a week.

At first, I was using the kitchen at Baobab. I had walked past La Victoria every day for the past 10 years, since it's near my house, and I noticed the Venga Empanadas sign on the window. There appeared to be enough room in the kitchen, so I thought about asking the owner about working here.

Then Wholesome Bakery started here. I'm friends with Mandy through the street cart world. She took on a role as organizer of events, and so did I. We were really close, and when she said she was going to rent out space here, I came and talked to [La Victoria owner] Jaime Maldonado. I actually started here before she did. 

What does working out of a licensed kitchen allow you to do? I use the kitchen for my catering and street food. I also use it as a base for cooking classes and dinner events. I go to a lot of events where they want us to use a licensed kitchen. I make something different every time and make big events of it ― I can't do that out of my kitchen at home.

[Working out of a licensed kitchen] is good for official events where we know the health department is going to be showing up. When I'm at Fabric8 [a boutique that throws regular parties featuring the street carts], it's just better, safer, more responsible to use a licensed kitchen. I do food pretty frequently there, and so if some health inspector came in for regular event, they can tell him the chef has a licensed kitchen.

How does the kitchen sharing work at La Victoria? Do you have a schedule? Not right now. It's just an honor and respect system, an open collective. The kitchen's big. Every single vendor has been here at the same time, and we had enough room.

How often do you work these days? On Mondays and Tuesdays, I run the Beacon Culinary Project in the Western Addition teaching cooking classes for kids. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I do full dinner menus here. Friday I'm usually at Fabric8, and Saturday is back here with the collective, unless there's another event. Sunday is ideally my day off, but sometimes we do random events, like last week's Plus One for Schools fundraiser, where I brought eight carts together at Precita Park.

Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie. Follow me at @jonkauffman.

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Soul Cocina

soulcocina.com, San Francisco, CA

Category: General

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