• We value equity, inclusion, and dignity for all.
• We recognize that our differences make us stronger. We respect and seek out inclusion of differences, so we can learn from each other.
• We respect and recognize that words and actions, or lack thereof, matter.
• We share in the human responsibility to safeguard equity, inclusion, dignity, and respect for all.
• We take action when we observe someone being treated unfairly or in a demeaning manner.
• We create cooking sauces that make it easier for anyone to cook quicker, healthier, delicious meals.
• Our company will always value diversity in our hiring practices. *Our company currently has one full-time employee (founder Chef Kirsten Sandoval), and our company ownership is 51% women owned, 39% POC owned.
• When sharing a recipe that is inspired by a specific culture/race/cultural event, we will acknowledge the originations of said recipe, and will strive to include links to the roots of that recipe or ingredients, or cultural event, wherever possible.
• When hiring independent contractors or service providers, and partnering with influencers, we will always hire with inclusion and diversity in mind.
• We will represent inclusion and diversity in our photos.
• We will use our platform to help create awareness, amplify diverse voices, and help drive positive change forward towards an equitable world for all.
Note from our CEO, Chef Kirsten Sandoval
“Food is family, culture, nourishment, community. Food is LOVE.” This is the only decoration I have on my desk, a piece of paper I printed out with this statement on it, framed, and placed next to me so I can see it every day.
Now, there is a new framed statement next to it: “There is always more to learn, and I will always strive to do, and be, better.”
I became a chef because of my passion for food, cooking, and healthy living. It developed into an obsession for two areas I’m specifically always seeking to learn more about: 1) Why, how, where recipes, cooking techniques, and flavor combinations started, and how they’ve migrated, adapted, and sometimes change along their journey. 2) Learning about the Blue Zones, the regions of the world where people live the longest, and live healthy and well.
These two obsessions shaped my own personal journey to creating a healthy new family legacy, reversing my high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pre-diabetes. My passions, and obsessions, are the reason I began my career as a personal chef serving private clients – so I could be the change in the world, and have a direct effect on people’s health, as well as their happiness. I specialized in cooking for professional athletes and I served people from all over the world, all different races, all different religions, all different cultures. Cooking for them shaped the recipes I discovered, as well as those I developed for their health purposes, and also their enjoyment.
The decision to start Mesa de Vida, and share the healthy cooking sauces I had been making for my clients, was to make it easier for people to cook healthy, delicious meals at home more often. I wanted to help more people than just the ones I could cook for privately. Again, I wanted to be the change in the world, and this is the way I figured I could help my fellow human beings.
Having privilege, growing up with my mostly white but also mixed-race family, being raised in what I always thought of as a fairly progressive region of the country (Seattle area), having the money to buy food from health/gourmet stores, loving the foods of other cultures, all shaped my food experience. I came from a place of “food is medicine”, love and respect for other cultures and the foods they are known for, and appreciation for the flavors around the globe - and I was naïve.
We’re all in our corners of the world, and food is the great connecter. It has the power to unite, and for many, it is the gateway to learning more about people they haven't met, and places they haven’t been.
Food is love, but food is also rife with pain and inequity. Lack of fair trade, access to healthy food, and land rights; immigrant workers abuse and lack of rights, cultural appropriation, environmental impact, food policy and legislation that hold down specific communities while growing profits for others, socio-economic and racial injustice, “good food vs. bad food”…they are all very real problems and issues in the food world, and the food community.
Many of the “trendy” foods and recipes people are now enjoying were originally created out of necessity – be it slavery, poverty, or war.
It is a privilege to be able to buy the foods we want to eat for our health, that satisfy our desires for a wide variety of tastes, and to have the money to buy whatever ingredients we want. If we are able to be intentional with the choices we make with the foods we buy, and companies we support, it is also an opportunity to impact positive change. We may not be able to do everything, but everyone can do something.
Most people find us because of a desire to cook healthy food they will love to eat, that tastes delicious, and that make their lives easier. We will be here for it. Recipes are a blend of ingredients that work together to create something delicious, and we want to celebrate the love of food.
We will also do our best to share the stories behind those recipes and ingredients. We will also, where available, link up to additional resources so we can all learn more. I personally vow to continue to support initiatives/companies/people/policies helping make food more equitable, fair, and just, across the world.
All over the world, the table is where people come together. For nourishment, for conversation, for sharing, for community, for mourning, for celebrating. It can also be the place where we can have the conversations that can drive positive change forward in our homes, our families, communities, and the world.
Long-term goals and vision – “Hold the door open”
Mesa de Vida is a very tiny company right now. We have one full-time employee (me!) and our partners (and my kids!) help where they can. But we do have ambitions to help create change in a greater way.
This is not something I have shared outside of my classes (thank you University of Washington Ascend program for women & POC-owned businesses!), or small circle. It is rooted there, but I want to replant it here so it can continue to grow.
What keeps me working every day to learn as much as I can is the goal to start a not-for-profit incubator and sales platform for food businesses started by mothers who are BIPOC, immigrants, refugees.
Some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted was cooked by BIPOC, immigrant, and/or refugee moms. Whether it was a dish from their culture or a fusion of flavors, the products and dishes were made and sold by these talented women – often with their children on their hips, often at a tiny food truck, or at the farmers market. People often expect that food to be cheap, they do not realize the immense amount of work that goes into their delicious offerings and the sacrifice so many of these women make on a daily basis.
My kids and I were at a women’s domestic violence shelter in 2009, had some rough times, and rebuilt our lives. I started Mesa de Vida on a shoestring budget while working another job, with two kids, and did not take a salary for a very long time. It was hard, but I know it is even harder, and darn near impossible, for so many.
People also may not realize how difficult and expensive it is to grow a food product into something that is scalable. There are even more barriers to entry, and many hurdles for women in general, more so for moms that may not have the support of their family, and even more so for BIPOC, immigrant, refugee women.
The door was opened for me, and I will hold the door open for entrepreneurial BIPOC, immigrant, and refugee mothers that are cooks and artisans to start, grow, and sustain businesses that can support their families, and create lasting legacies for their families.
It is an honor to serve you, and I’m always willing to listen and learn from you!
*If you're looking for a way to support, please join me in supporting La Cocina in San Francisco, a nonprofit working to solve problems of equity in business ownership for women, immigrants and people of color. I am a huge fan and supporter of their program, and their plans to open the country's first women-led food hall.
Women account for only 33% of business owners nationwide and still make 46-75 cents for every dollar their white, male counterparts make.
Chef Kirsten Sandoval