Stef’s Story

Cooking is in my blood. Growing up, my mom cooked meals from scratch every single night. Very early on, I would hop on to assist doing whatever I could do: peel potatoes, bread milanesas, “washing” dishes (but actually made an even bigger mess therefore doubling the work for that task…), etc. By the time I finished high school, my interest in cooking was still at the forefront, which led me to start Culinary School. In the same week, I began as a full time culinary school student as well working in a professional kitchen full time. The seed that later on became my passion for serving quality food was planted at that time.

Fast forward two and a half years, I decided to take my chances as an entrepreneur and quit my job. I had acquired many culinary skills, including but not limited to baking party cakes, baking wedding cakes, meal prepping services, private chef services, cooking classes, you name it. I was ready to market all of the above to see what path would be created below my feet.

Coincidentally, at the exact same time that I put in my two weeks notice, my parents shared with me their idea to sell empanadas for hot service at the Farmer’s Market. My mom had previously made small quantities of 2-3 flavors of empanadas exclusively in the slow summer months to sell refrigerated and individually packaged at the market. They saw there was a market for it, but it was one they were unable to fulfill due to their dedication to their full time fresh pasta manufacturing venture. This is when they told me about their idea and offered it to me to try out. I had spent my entire childhood assisting my mom every time she made empanadas at home, so I was already well versed in the empanada realm. In a leap of faith, I began my tenure as The Empanada Girl.

I began vending at the Downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market in February of 2010 with a tiny set-up comprised of one table and one toaster oven, beginning with seven traditional Argentine empanada flavors. I was able to join my professional culinary education and training with my knowledge of home cooking as I began to play with recipe proportions, meanwhile beginning a second degree in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship.

Everything began with the core values of respecting the food, using exclusively whole foods as ingredients, and cooking with love. It was a venture that really made my soul happy as I shared love and joy through my food. Through the years, I slowly expanded on flavors in response to the demand, as well as evolved the existing recipes. I spent years on every single recipe, slowly playing with proportions and seasonings until they reach perfection. It took me three years to evolve the proportions in my traditional Beef recipe to the point to where it currently is today!

My flavor repertoire slowly expanded from seven flavors to twenty-one! I prided myself in carrying a variety of flavors so that there was something for everyone; from meaty, to spicy, to vegetables, to cheesy and everything in between. After creating my own version of all of my favorite traditional Argentine empanadas, I started creating American fusion empanada flavors such as the legendary Breakfast and Steak and Cheese empanadas, both crowd favorites.

Meanwhile, I built a wholesale branch of business for selling frozen empanadas to other local businesses who resell the empanadas. Today, my empanadas can be found in a variety of local businesses from cafes, restaurants, bars/pubs, gas stations, various farmer’s markets, even local butcher shops! After 7+ years of sealing every single empanada myself by hand, I had to make the hard decision of importing a semi-automatic empanada sealing machine to aid in the empanada sealing due to the onset of tendonitis in my hands/arms. This marked the end of an era where every empanada flavor had its own physical hand-sealed shape, but began the welcome era of sustainable consistent production of empanadas! The benefit of this machine, aside from saving the function in my arms, is that it seals every single empanada with letters on the crust that make their insides easily recognizable!! Talk about a win/win!!

The latest addition to our empanada flavor family is the long awaited, highly requested, and much anticipated Vegan line of empanadas!! It was released in early 2019, after months of research and working on both dough and recipe formulas. I am thrilled to have joined the local plant based community, offering a delicious line of options of, “fast” food that is made from scratch with love and quality ingredients.

My team and I pride ourselves for mindfully creating delicious food that is enjoyed by thousands of people in our beloved community. This business was built due to the overwhelming support from the people who come back time and time again, year after year, to purchase our empanadas. We are so grateful for our amazing supportive community and cook our food with you all in our minds and hearts. We prep every ingredient mindfully, infusing love and gratitude into every food item, aware and grateful for its part in the circle of life. Every single batch of empanada filling is blessed from the source whence it came and thanked for its part in the circle of life, both from where it came from and for where it is going. We cook with the intention that everyone that eats our empanadas feels the joy that we create them with, that everyone nutritionally receives exactly what they need from our food, and that everyone feels the satisfaction of eating food that is respected.

Almost ten years in and our journey is just beginning. It is our pleasure and privilege to have had the opportunity for so long to service our community with delicious food, and look forward to many more years of reaching a wider public with love, joy, mindfulness, gratitude, dedication, and innovation.