Roxanne Scott and Darnell Ferguson

Roxanne Scott and Darnell Ferguson


Guest interviewer Roxanne Scott chats with chef and television fixture Darnell Ferguson about what it means to be the only Black executive chef in Louisville, Kentucky. In this frank interview, Ferguson reveals his approach to mentorship and the work it takes to ensure his message of positivity gets to the people who need it.

Produced by Juan Ramirez. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions.





This summer, Soleil stopped by the Kundiman writer’s retreat at Fordham University to record snippets of poetry and prose from this year’s writing fellows. Each year, Kundiman brings upcoming Asian American writers together for a week of mentorship, workshops, and master classes. On this bonus episode, you’ll hear the first of the 16 recordings she made, featuring Aurora Masum-Javed, Doreen Wang, Matthew Olzmann, and Janine Joseph.

Produced by Juan Ramirez. Music by Lobo Loco, Les Cartes Postables Sonores and Rushmo.







In this second episode of a two-part series on mental health, Soleil speaks with Heather Armstrong and Kimberley Wilson on the links between diet and mental health. Armstrong, a blogger and writer also known as “Dooce,” tell us how her last attempt at veganism resulted in the worst depression of her life. Then, psychologist Wilson talks to us about her work busting myths about clean eating and dieting in the UK.

Produced by Juan Ramirez and Stephanie Kuo. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions.



This is the first of a two-part series on mental health. Soleil sits down with author Hannah Howard and chef Casey Rebecca Nunes, who both open up about their own mental health struggles in the food industry. In the first part of the episode, Howard describes a scene from her new memoir “Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen,” and talks about grappling with an eating disorder while working at a fine dining restaurant. Nunes then explains how she balances the pressures of being a chef with self-care routines.

Produced by Juan Ramirez. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions.




 Jung Fitzpatrick

Jung Fitzpatrick

In this episode, we hear the morning keynote address at the La Cocina food conference delivered by Reem Assil, the founder of Reem’s Bakery and the newly opened restaurant Dyafa. Reem speaks about the targeting of civilians in Gaza and how she uses food as a way to push back against the Israeli occupation and its attempted erasure of Palestinian lives. We also hear from one of Reem’s employees about how the design and decor of Reem’s bakery reflects their mission and philosophy.

Produced by Juan Ramirez. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions.





In part one, Soleil, Zahir, and Juan meet up at La Cocina Conference in San Fransisco and Soleil shares some exciting news.

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In part two, we commemorate Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day by interviewing journalist Liana Aghajanian about what it was like to come to the US as a refugee from Iran, how the Armenian genocide impacted Armenian food, and what exactly a dowel is.

Produced by Juan Ramirez. Music by Blue Dot Sessions and AF the Naysayer.


E32: Because I Don’t have Papers (w/ Armando Ibañez) July 27, 2017


Juan speaks with Armando Ibañez, an undocumented queer filmmaker who produces Undocumented Tales, a web series that is loosely based on Armando’s experience as a waiter in LA. Armando talks about what is like to be undocumented in the US while working as a server in the food industry and how his love for film helped him feel comfortable about his sexuality.

“Sometimes I ask my self, How have I last 16 years in the restaurant industry? and then I answer myself—because I don’t have fucking papers!”, says Armando.

We also dive into the violence street vendors often experience while working, including a recent incident that sparked controversy after a man flipped over Benjamin Ramirez’s cart.

Produced by Juan Ramirez. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions.


Undocumented Tales
Support Armando’s Project
The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign



It’s our first reported episode of the season! Emily Hunsberger, who hosts the Spanish-language podcast Tertulia, brings us this great story about Kitchen Spanish, the unique pidgin spoken among Spanish-speaking and English-speaking staff in restaurant kitchens. While interviewing food workers in Grand Rapids, Mich., Emily discovered that the ability and willingness to communicate across language barriers have become especially critical today in the United States where the immigration debate under the Trump Administration is escalating. Also in this episode: we hear from host Soleil about her own experience speaking Kitchen Spanish and about that one time producer Juan Ramirez got in trouble in school for saying a bad word.

Note: Because this episode is about the unique kind of Spanish that’s spoken in restaurants, there are long stretches of Spanish dialogue throughout the piece. Emily paraphrases and interjects wherever she can, but we wanted to preserve those conversations as much as possible.

Produced by Stephanie Kuo and Juan Ramirez. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions.


Deported Veteran Comes Home

Article on Latino Rebels

By Juan Diego Ramirez

In a small room full of cameras, an American flag pinned on the wall becomes the backdrop of every shot. Hector Barajas sits on a leather couch placed against that wall. He is about to read an immigration decision that could decide his future to either return to the U.S. or stay in Mexico. Barajas is part of an ever-growing population of US deportees with one exception—he is a military veteran. 

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Instagram Picture @Deportedveteran

“Deported veterans are people who served in the armed forces all the way from the Vietnam War era to the guys who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan” says Barajas, Founder and Director of the Deported Veterans Support House (DVSH)—an organization set to provide assistance to U.S. Military serviceman who have been deported to Mexico in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico.

“The most important thing that we do is housing. We make sure they get somewhere to sleep until they get their life situated” Barajas says about deported veterans. The recourses center also helps the deported veterans obtain their Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, compensation pensions, legal services, physical, and mental health resources.

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There are two “Bunkers”—as the DVSH centers are commonly called—in Mexico, but the organization is planning to open more “Bunkers” wherever there are large populations of deported veterans around the world. Barajas is currently in talks with deported veterans in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, where he will be assisting other veterans to open their own “Bunker” in the near future. He has identified 350 deported Veterans around the world and 60 deported veterans in Tijuana and Juarez, Mexico—the second location of the Mexican “Bunkers”.

According to Barajas, DVSH members are made of once legal residents and undocumented Vietnam War Veterans that were drafted during the Vietnam War, including himself.

Barajas came to the U.S. at the age of 7 years old and settled in Compton, California with his family. As a teenager, Barajas was granted a permanent residency card. Right after turning 17 years old he enlisted in the military and at 18 years old Barajas joined the Army and served with the 82nd Airborne Division.  He served the military for two terms, from 1995 to 2001. He became a wartime veteran due to his services from the aftermath of 9/11.

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After his military service, Barajas served a 2-year prison sentence for unlawfully discharging a firearm in 2001. In 2004 Barajas was deported back to Mexico for the first time. He returned to the U.S. and was deported a second time in 2010

“I went through the whole deportation proceeding and when I was getting deported I thought I was the only person that was going through this and then over the years through my advocacy work I’ve identified hundreds of veterans being deported around the world,” says Barajas when talking about why he got involved with the organization.  “I feel committed and somebody needs to do something about it.” 

After serving a prison sentence Barajas was picked up by immigration. “I thought I was going to be released initially,” says Barajas. He was eventually put in deportation proceedings and was sent from California to Eloy—an Immigration detention center in Arizona. That’s when he was able to let his family know he was being deported. “I thought that as soon as they would find out I was a veteran I was going to be released but being a veteran carries no weight on being deported under the current laws”

According to a 2017 Washington Post article, “500,000 foreign-born U.S. veterans lived in the country in 2016. Since October 2001, more than 100,000 military members have become naturalized citizens”. They credited these numbers to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Migration Policy Institute.

There is a misconception that veterans become US citizens automatically after their military services according to Barajas. “We have been drafting Undocumented Immigrants since the Civil war” noted Barajas. While there is a path to citizenship in the military, Barajas points to the lack of information from the military about such proceedings and initiative from individuals who qualify for these benefits. “Sometimes you get deployed to Afghanistan and the last thing on your mind is trying to figure out your citizenship while you are trying to survive and stay alive,” comments Barajas. “It’s kind of hard to be thinking about your N-400—the application for US citizenship—while dodging bullets.”

Many of the deported veterans Barajas helps fell under the wrong assumption that they too would not be deported due to their military service, according to Barajas. “Some thought that they were citizens because of their recruiters,” says Barajas. “So what happens when you come home from the military if you go through some rough time? Not only do you serve a prison sentence, but then you are picked by immigration,” says Barajas.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 11 to 20% of veterans will suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

“I see a lot of mental health issues, not just because of deportation but because of the military service, but deportation also affects you as well,” says Barajas.

Back at the Tijuana “Bunker” Barajas opens a blue a folder that contains his U.S. immigration decision. Stumbling his words he shouts, “Hallelujah! Mom, I am coming home mom!”. He then turns to other deported veterans in the room and says, “ I am not stopping for any of you guys, you guys know my commitment.”

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Facebook Picture @Hector.Barajas2

Barajas has become the first Deported veteran with Mexican nationality to come back to the U.S. as a Citizen. He is to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen on April 13 in San Diego, California.