Neighborhood Cultural Staple is Known for Sourcing Food from Local Sustainable Farms, Supporting Workers with Equitable Wages, and Serving Community Members in Need
- Dana Alpert
- Legislative/Communications Assistant
SACRAMENTO, CA — Yesterday, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) announced that he selected Gasolina Café, a neighborhood Spanish-influenced restaurant in Woodland Hills, as the Small Business of the Year in Assembly District 45 for California Small Business Day 2021.
“Neighborhood restaurants are the backbone of communities across California, and Gasolina Café is the perfect example of why these establishments are so valued,” said Assemblymember Gabriel. “I’m proud to be honoring such an incredible small business that does so much to enrich the lives of those in the West Valley, both through its delicious food and its commitment to serving our community.”
Opened in 2015, Gasolina Café was founded by Sandra Cordero, who hails from Galicia, Spain, and wanted to bring Spanish-influenced food to the West Valley. It is a “much-loved neighborhood destination,” according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Utilizing sustainably raised and locally sourced ingredients, Gasolina Café takes pride in how it honors Cordero’s Spanish heritage. Staples include churros con chocolate and tortilla Española, as well as the Café’s signature dish of patatas bravas, popularized by the late Los Angeles Times reporter Jonathan Gold.
“Of the many gifts that being an independent restaurant owner has bestowed upon me, one that I find myself continually grateful for is that I’m repeatedly reminded that there are things in life worth fighting for. To take care of my employees while empowering them to be a part of a workplace that shares the common goal of making the days of those in our community a little brighter has been unbelievably gratifying,” said Cordero. “Like so many, this past year has been one in which permanently closed doors lurked ever-present around the corner. But, we fought like hell, continue to do so, and will remain in the fight until we win, or there’s nothing left. Now, to receive this award on behalf of the entire Gasolina team certainly makes for a great symbol that I can take back to my people, and show them that their great efforts have not gone unnoticed.”
Gasolina Café has dedicated itself to giving back to the West San Fernando Valley. Last year, the Café began an initiative known as the Dinner Series to provide meals for people in need—first delivering meals to frontline healthcare workers, then testing sites, then underserved neighborhoods around the community, and then assisted living facilities last November, delivering over 250 Thanksgiving meals to Skid Row. In the last year alone, Gasolina Café cooked and delivered over 32,000 meals around Los Angeles. Cordero is also a founding member of Re:Her, a nonprofit devoted to the advancement and empowerment of women restauranteurs in Los Angeles by providing small business grants, mentorship, and resources to women in the restaurant industry.
Recognizing that many employees in the restaurant and hospitality industry were living paycheck-to-paycheck with no benefits in the midst of COVID-19, Gasolina Café implemented a service fee near the beginning of the pandemic that now allows it to pay its workers above minimum wage with a fixed salary and health insurance. “Our goal is to grow our business, which will allow us to offer folks a career versus a job,” said Cordero, “My hope is that everyone in and out of the hospitality business realizes now that these people are as contributive to the fabric of our society as any other working professional.”
This award comes as Assemblymember Gabriel continues to advance Assembly Bill (AB) 61, which will greatly expand opportunities for outdoor dining across California by empowering local jurisdictions and the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) to provide much-needed regulatory flexibility to neighborhood restaurants struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. AB 61 was recently granted an urgency clause, meaning the measure will go into effect immediately upon signature by the Governor.