Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez (she/her) is the executive director of La Cocina, an award-winning San Francisco nonprofit that cultivates low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses.
La Cocina’s mission has special significance for Deborah: Her mother Aurelia immigrated from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and opened a Puerto Rican restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. The restaurant Aurelia started was about more than serving delicious food; it was a place of community building and sharing stories and a refuge from anti-immigrant racism. Deborah developed her entrepreneurial mindset and a deep commitment to creating pathways for economic security and freedom through business ownership in her mother’s restaurant. She is thrilled to be joining La Cocina as its next executive director; this is work that her heart knows.
Experienced in nonprofit, philanthropic, business, and governmental sectors, Deborah is a high-impact, creative, entrepreneurial, and adaptive leader. She’s an award-winning CEO, a social sector innovator, and an advocate for systemic policy reforms focused on racial, economic, and environmental equity and justice.
Previously, Deborah served as the CEO of Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin, where she transformed and doubled the organization’s revenue, services, influence, and impact in the community. She was also the founder and CEO of Seam Innovation, a strategic innovation and management consultancy. Deborah’s other past positions include:
- Director of the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families
- Assistant director of budget and planning at the San Francisco Department of Public Health
- Interim president and CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation
- Vice president of programs at the Omidyar Foundation
Deborah has also served as the pastor of Jones Memorial United Methodist Church and pastoral intern at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. She has also served on numerous boards, including Recology, the Commonwealth Club of California, Pacific School of Religion, Independent Sector, Goodwill Industries International, East Bay Community Foundation, Cordes Foundation, the Harwood Institute, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Deborah holds a Master of Divinity in environmental ethics and theology from the Pacific School of Religion and a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American History from Harvard University.