Latinx Heritage Month: Siembra

In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, we are hosting a series of profiles and stories to amplify and honor people, businesses, organizations, and projects connected to Seattle’s Latinx community.

Alex Dorros is a Seattle native on a mission to keep Seattle vibrant. Working in the restaurant industry as a sous chef and server, Alex found himself out of work when the pandemic hit. His mom, Sandra, decided to hang up her hat as a Spanish teacher around the same time and it seemed natural to jump into the kitchen together! Siembra began with the duo working together to share comfort food with loved ones and while representing and honoring their Latinx culture.

  • Tell us a bit about Siembra and your inspiration for starting it.

Siembra means to sow seeds in Spanish. The vision first came from hosting little pop-ups for friends when I lived in Bogotá, Colombia. I loved the power food has in bringing people together, sharing experiences, and celebrating stories. I came back to Seattle hungry to host pop-ups. At that point, I was really more of a home chef with minimal experience in professional kitchens. Over the last few years, I’ve received mentorship from some chefs I really admire and have worked as a cook at restaurants across Seattle. Traveling, diving into cookbooks, and seeing what I can cook with seasonally in the Pacific Northwest have inspired my cooking. I’ve always wanted there to be more representation of South American cuisine and culture in Seattle, and Siembra is our way of contributing to that. The biggest drive for Siembra is building community, whether it is giving back through mutual aid cooking for our community or helping people feel more connected to each other at pop-up events.

  • Siembra is a pop-up, can you explain what that means and why you decided to go that route?

Right before the pandemic, I felt like I was finally ready to share Siembra with the world. I was applying to become a farmers market vendor until that was shut down. I was left without any restaurant work, and my mom who was a teacher ended up retiring early due to the challenges of virtual teaching. I decided that I would repackage the business model from being a mobile vendor to a pop-up. We started cooking out of my mom’s kitchen, After a couple of successful test meals, I rented a commissary kitchen in Mt. Baker, and we started serving prix fixe meals like ceviche, Chinese-Peruvian fried rice, stews, salads, and mousses. It grew through word of mouth, and eventually, we were serving about 50 meals every Friday. A lot of our ingredients are organic, with the produce and meat sourced locally. We launched as a pop-up because it seemed like our only option at the time to do things by the books. Brick and mortar restaurants and food trucks require huge investments, and the pandemic brought the traditional catering market to a grinding halt. But there are also lots of benefits to the pop-up model, which is pretty scrappy. We aren’t tied to a fixed location or menu, so there’s a lot of freedom and room to experiment, and I think people are excited to share the journey with us as we figure out what’s next.

  • What drew you to Peruvian cuisine specifically?  Do you incorporate your Colombian roots into your menu at all?

Through my mom’s roots, I fell in love with Peruvian cuisine. She and my dad traveled there while writing a children’s book featuring Peruvian artists. She spoke very highly of the food, though I didn’t get exposed to Peruvian food until I started traveling to South America as a young adult. I was sucked in by the rich biodiversity of Peruvian cuisine, respect for indigenous culture, spice, and a broad spectrum of flavors. Peruvian food is truly unique. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface exploring it. More recently we’ve started incorporating Colombian dishes as well, like arepa corn masa cakes.

  • How does food help you stay connected to your Latinx roots?

Learning about South American cuisine has helped me understand pieces of history that have shaped who I am and the region my family is from. I’m sad to say that a lot of my Abuela’s recipes have been forgotten and didn’t get written down. The practice of preserving the traditions of certain dishes is a way of documenting Latinx history. It allows us to celebrate what makes Latinx culture and cuisine distinctive across different countries and regions, and also where there are common threads. You can trace the impacts that colonialism, slavery, and waves of immigration still maintained today. Since we’re not Peruvian but are cooking lots of Peruvian food, to me it means respectfully and honestly approaching the food and people we serve, looking for feedback, and constantly learning. We try to keep the integrity of traditional flavors even when we’re giving them a new spin with local ingredients, like making ceviche with oyster mushrooms instead of fish for our vegetarian friends. Siembra has given me a platform to tell the story of Latinx farmworkers, restaurant workers, and provide visibility to Latinx creatives.

  • What role do Siembra and other Latinx restaurants play in keeping Seattle’s food scene vibrant?

Starting a business at the beginning of the pandemic made it clear that businesses can play important roles in functioning as support systems and a medium for people to give back to their communities. There are lots of chefs and community members in Seattle who have been cooking free mutual aid meals for years and there’s still a big need for more culturally responsive food aid for the Latinx Community, like through Feeding el Pueblo in Burien. I hope to see more Latinx restaurants come together to share resources and promote each other. There’s a growing community of Latinx pop-up owners who I’ve collaborated with like Selva Central Goods and Garzón. I feel lucky to be part of such a supportive crew. My goal is to share my platform with other Latinx chefs who want to get into pop-ups but could use a little help. I also believe that every time we spend our dollars, we’re voting for the kind of world we want to live in and who we want to empower. In some ways, giving visibility to small Latinx businesses can be a form of anti-displacement. Of course, systemic changes are needed too.

For some of our pop-ups, we’ve collaborated with artists and small business owners to help them sell things like art and house plants. Sometimes it feels like Latinx communities are extremely fragmented in Seattle. Our personal communities are stronger because of Siembra, and I hope it’s helping other Latinx people build bridges with each other or explore their own identities. I’m excited for the waves of change that are building for Latinx chefs in Seattle.


To learn more about Siembra and get information on upcoming pop-up events visit: https://siembraseattle.com/