Luis and Veronika Manuel left Latin America in 2010 with the aim to create a greater life for his or her kids by bringing a style of Venezuelan tradition to Canada.
The harmful political local weather in Venezuela compelled the chef and chemical engineer to surrender their meals empire and pursue safer alternatives abroad; the thought was to deliver the identical enterprise mannequin to Canada and slowly get their foot within the door within the numerous and aggressive meals trade right here in Toronto.
The important thing to their profitable migration got here all the way down to greater than only a good enterprise concept— meet the arepa, that’s, an genuine Venezuelan cornmeal sandwich bun that has come to be the centre-stage ingredient on the Arepa Republic’s food truck at Hillcrest Mall.
“My concept was to begin small at native meals markets and to see if individuals prefer it, allow them to attempt our meals, then to take a step ahead… And that’s what we did,” Luis mentioned.
The arepa shouldn’t be like your typical tortilla wrap; not like regular corn tortillas, they’re made by pounding recent cornmeal into thick patties which can be both grilled or griddled as an alternative of fried— the tip result’s a crusty, sweet-smelling exterior and tender, fleshy inside that pairs completely with conventional Latin American flavours, comparable to pulled pork, onions, beans and a great deal of cheese.
Arepas have deep roots in native Venezualan and Colombian tradition and proceed to be a quite common house-hold snack or facet dish served with almost each meal. Whereas its precise origins are unclear, the arepa recipe has remained unchanged all through historical past making it one of many few pre-contact traditions that has continued to be common following colonization within the 1500s.
Luis discovered to make home-made arepas again house in Venezuela as a younger man, the place he managed his personal catering and restaurant enterprise since 2001 together with his spouse. After efficiently trialing his sandwiches at native meals markets for a number of years right here in Toronto, they determined to open up their first cell meals truck in 2015, and went on to open a second meals truck and retailer entrance in 2018. Teamwork has come to be a key facet on this household enterprise; Veronika, previously a chemical engineer, grew to become a advertising alias for Luis upon transferring to Canada and dedicated to spreading the phrase of their cultural delicacies.
“Folks listed here are very open to new concepts and new ideas, and we have been on the lookout for details about town, and if individuals are enthusiastic about attempting meals from our nation,” Luis mentioned. “The market right here is completely completely different from Venezuela, and we tailored our concepts to native concepts right here.”
One of many Arepa Republic’s hottest gadgets is a bonafide model of mozzarella cheese sticks referred to as the tequeños— huge deep-fried candy dough encasing gooey, inch-thick cheesiness— an merchandise straight from Venezuela with mysterious origins very similar to the arepa, and one that’s cherished simply as a lot right here in Toronto.
“The tequeños are essentially the most emblematic appetizer in Venezuela,” Luis mentioned. “Each occasion shouldn’t be good if they aren’t serving tequeños!”
A part of his concept to merge the arepa with Canadian tradition additionally led to the creation of gluten-free arepas and modified sandwich elements that accommodate Canadian diets whereas concurrently being authentically Venezuelan. One other signature facet in regards to the arepa sandwiches are that they’re packed-stuffed with wealthy and flavourful elements, like avocado, beef, cheese, and pulled pork that can absolutely fulfill your starvation.
Luis can be beginning a brand new sandwich idea that’s made with candy plantains as an alternative of cornmeal buns, which has kicked-off to be well-liked amongst Torontonians at his second meals truck, the Funky Patron, positioned at Scarborough City Centre.
The Manuel household have actually made a handful of loyal clients with each their meals vans, though the couple is lacking the mobility of their outdated meals truck, and are uncertain if they’ll nonetheless be round subsequent 12 months resulting from tough meals truck laws within the metropolis in gentle of the pandemic.
“I like the mobility of the meals truck, that’s what I really love,” Luis mentioned, explaining that his aim was to deliver the Arepa Republic’s delicacies throughout the GTA to seek out new clients and produce consciousness to the model. “Sadly, this 12 months is completely different— you might be in a hard and fast location, it’s not unhealthy, however the state of affairs proper now shouldn’t be the very best… That’s the humorous factor about this enterprise. Issues change, and we’re going to hold our truck right here for some time, however I’m not positive what we are going to do subsequent 12 months.”
Whatever the unfavourable circumstances solid upon the meals truck trade, Luis and Veronika are grateful for the identify they’ve made for themselves in Toronto, and sit up for the surge of summer time clients that lie forward.
“Me and my household, we love Canada, and we’re grateful for the alternatives we’ve got right here.”
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