It all started over a decade ago at Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center, a place where education, heritage, and a love of learning combine to spark interest in new generations.

Dedicated to providing programs for the National City population, Olivewood works with volunteers to share their knowledge, kitchen, and educational garden with others. One of Olivewood’s most successful programs is Cooking for Salud. In National City where some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in San Diego County are occuring, Cooking for Salud introduces families to lifestyle practices that can prevent health issues before they start by changing the foods they eat. Participants learn how to cook with natural ingredients and are introduced to traditional regional cuisine and cooking methods. The program takes basic concepts, like limiting processed foods and introducing nutrient-dense meals, and turns them into a way of life that is changing a community.

After completing the Cooking for Salud program, graduates may join the Kitchenistas, a volunteer program to continue sharing their food journey with the community. Kitchenistas are dedicated to using simple approaches to food while elevating traditional recipes at the same time. And what’s even more impressive? Most of their recipes are wholly plant-based. They aspire to create a community full of healthy cooks who embrace their heritage and are dedicated to preserving the recipes of the past.

The Kitchenista initiative has become so popular throughout the community that they have expanded to catering. Imagine learning to cook tortillas from scratch and then turning around to serve those tortillas to others. The delicious dishes they cook up for an event are things anyone can do to create a Kitchenista-worthy gathering of their own—and they’ve shared some of their best menu planning tips so we can all party like a Kitchenista.


Hero image by Mia Ballesteros.

Image by Mia Ballesteros.
Images by Mia Ballesteros.

This article was originally published in issue 71.

Cover image by Haley Hazell.
About the Contributor
Lindsay Smith
Lindsay Smith learned to cook from her grandmother, a self-taught home cook who whipped up elaborate holiday feasts and decadent family meals on the regular. She takes dishes loved as a child and updates them with a Southern California flare. Citrus and avocados abound in her recipes and Taco Tuesday is a way of life. Lindsay combines fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients in ways to suit every palate and that are simple enough even the most novice home cook can execute them perfectly. You can find her at