Experience Spanish Cuisine at Gasolina Cafe in Woodland Hills

Can anyone say paella party?

  • Category
    Eat & Drink, People
  • Written by
    Karen Young
  • Photographed by
    Shane O’Donnell

For Sandra Cordero, childhood memories are vivid—from growing up in Amsterdam, where she lived with her Dutch mother, to the summers spent on her father’s family farm in the Galicia region of Spain.

“I loved seeing la abuela (grandmother) and las tias (aunts) always in the kitchen cooking, while I ran around on the farm helping … shelling peas, walking cows.”

Her passion for food solidified with her first restaurant job at 15. “I knew right away that I wanted my own place someday.”

After working for seven years as a model, Sandra landed in LA for a restaurant management opportunity. Ultimately she attended cooking school, apprenticed under top chefs, and built a catering/food styling company. She was also a season 1 champion on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen.

Expanding her business, in 2015 Sandra partnered with husband John Hensley to open Gasolina Cafe, a casual Spanish-influenced breakfast/lunch eatery. With a total of 44 seats (the majority are on the sidewalk) the tiny space features an open galley kitchen, countertop seating and walls lined with images of motorcycle culture. Sandra and her husband are enthusiasts, which inspired the name of the restaurant. “I love when we are able to provide a new eating experience to someone who hasn’t had Spanish food in their life, or evoke a childhood or vacation memory.”

Locally sourced ingredients combined with Spanish imports blanket the sustainable menu. Staples include churros con chocolate and tortilla Española. The signature dish is patatas bravas, popularized by the late Jonathan Gold, who described it as “perfectly crunchy, meltingly fluffy inside, and painted with a lovely frieze of aioli and smoky chile sauce, like home fries from heaven.” Gasolina also hosts monthly three-course Paella Nights through October.

Juggling work and family, Sandra went full throttle this year—graduating from the James Beard Foundation Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, and the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastián, Spain. Close to her heart is C-CAP (Careers in Culinary Education), for which she mentors high school students, adding that two of her cooks came through the internship program.

Sandra hopes to set an example for her 8-year-old daughter. “I want her to know that we as humans have a responsibility to this planet and that women need to work hard not to destroy it.“

21014 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills  gasolinacafe.com