Leslie Olano is a small business owner and Kenosha native, who’s mission is to share her love of food with the community. Olano’s Empanadas is her family business, specializing in freshly baked empanadas, or “South American Pastries”. Their product can be found at local farmer’s markets, food truck events, or through deliveries and catering. Social media and website olanosempanadas.com are updated weekly, so follow them to stay up-to date with their journey!
Never Give Up
In 2013, our business plan was written and Olano’s Empanadas was born. A crucial step in our planning was finding a commercial kitchen to rent in the area, so we could start producing our empanadas and selling them. We discovered HALO’s “Recipe for Success” program in Racine, which was geared toward start up businesses. “Yes! This was exactly what we were looking for.” HALO, stands for Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization and it has two commercial kitchens. The program was just what we needed and we couldn’t wait to start.
The men’s kitchen was the one that the businesses would use to produce their products. On our first day, we met with the kitchen manager and another business owner who used the facility. Our time had to be scheduled in advance because it was a “shared kitchen”. We were happy to have a place where we could start our business from the ground up.
The next step was to schedule our licensing and kitchen inspection. My husband had 20 years of kitchen experience and has worked in pretty much every position in a restaurant. I looked to him for leadership because I had little kitchen experience, except for at home cooking with my family. I was eager to learn the in’s and out’s of the kitchen and how to run an effective empanada business.
It wasn’t easy at first, and I could tell that my husband was trying to keep his cool in order to teach me the proper ways of working in a kitchen. He was a sous chef in his previous restaurant, and he had management experience. He told me, “If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask. There are no stupid questions!” I bet he regretted telling me this because I had a million questions.
Alex’s grandma was the inspiration for our empanadas, so we wanted to do justice and make a dough that would be flaky, and hold its shape during the baking process. It couldn’t be too soft, otherwise the empanadas would go flat. It had to be sweet, but just enough sweetness to make our customers come back for more.
The perfect combination of savory and sweet, the unique combinations of fillings that Alex would create complimented the dough. Some people ask, “Do you buy your dough, or make it from scratch?” Making the dough from scratch was the only option. The hard work would be worth it and Alex told me, “Never take shortcuts when it comes to the quality of the food.”
I had my dough recipe ready and I was ready to start measuring. Little did I know, that sometimes the recipe had to be adjusted due to variations in temperature and humidity. Alex would tell me, “You have to feel the dough, to make sure it feels right.” How would I know how it’s supposed to feel? Practice, practice, practice!
One baby step at a time, little goals and achievements have been celebrated in and out of the kitchen. If things didn’t work out exactly like we planned, we always bounced back stronger than ever. We are always pushing ourselves to do better. Never giving up is key, even when the road is hard.
We are so thankful to have been a part of HALO’s “Recipe for Success” program. Without having access to their kitchen, we do not know where we would have started. Someday we hope we can open our own community kitchen in order to repay the favor and give back to businesses. Support from others was given to us when we needed it most and we will forever be grateful.
(This article first appeared in the June 19th issue of the Smart Reader)
Farmer’s Markets are starting up for 2020 and it is an exciting time! Even though we are amidst of a pandemic, farmer’s market have been deemed “essential” and should be a safer way to shop since they are outdoors.
Fresh produce picked a few hours before, baked goods fresh out of the oven, dog treats made with love, sauces and salsas galore! The smells and the sounds, the community gathers and unites as one. As humans we need this interaction and community involvement. It’s good for the heart and soul to breathe the fresh air and take it all in.
There is such a variety to explore each and every week. Where else can you find local produce grown right here in Wisconsin, as well as prepared foods and local products? The variety is unmatched and we are lucky to have so many markets in Wisconsin! There will be two markets on Saturday in Kenosha this season. The Kenosha Harbor Market and the NEW Kenosha Public Market. We will be at both of them this summer, so make sure you check them out and support local!
Here are a few tips for shopping at farmers markets this year (from a vendor perspective).
-Pre-order with the vendors, to ensure they have the product that you want. Ordering information can be found on the farmers market websites, social media, or directly with the vendors. Don’t be shy because we would love to hear from you!
-Pay with exact change, or pre-pay to speed up the transaction and waiting time. Efficiency is the key to keep the lines moving.
-Wear a face mask to protect yourself and the vendors. We appreciate it if the customers wear them, to keep us all safe. It will give us a peace of mind and it’s a small thing you can do to make us feel more comfortable during the pandemic we are in.
-Keep 6 feet distance between the customers and please be patient as the vendors fill the orders.
-Be kind because we are all in this together! A lot of hard work goes in to the market each week, so don’t forget to say please & thank you as you shop!
Thanks and we can’t wait to see our customers this year! It’s been a long time “staying at home” so we are looking forward to some social interaction. Thank you for reading and we hope everyone gets a chance to join us this year.
Choose Baked with Olano’s
I learned to appreciate food at a young age. Despite long hours at work, my Italian American parents never failed to provide wonderful, homemade meals each night. Thoughts of savory sauce layered into delicious lasagna and seasoned stuffed peppers always brings forth nostalgia and warmth.
Alex Olano was the first person I ever met from Peru and we fell in love immediately. He introduced me to exotic dishes from his home country and it was apparent how talented he was in the kitchen. My husband always longed to be an entrepreneur and early on knew his destiny would be tied into food. He was determined to provide for his family, but did not know how to make his dreams a reality.
One summer day we discovered the Kenosha HarborMarket. The various vendors and array of goods was impressive. Roaming the aisles had a great impact on us and soon after, the inspiration for Olano’s Empanadas was born.
Initially we were overwhelmed with hurdles. How do we start a business? Would people like our product? How do we sell? When do we profit? There were many unanswered questions, but we were determined to find them! This would be a long road ahead, but our need to provide for our family outweighed any obstacles. We decided to take a huge risk just like our ancestors before us.
Much brainstorming, planning and preparation followed. We knew our menu had to be uniquewhile appealing to the masses. Alex opted for empanadas as they were an enormous part of his childhood and a staple of his family dinners. He wanted to provide a dish that was healthy, convenient, and easy to eat at the market. Empanadas allowed him to play with countless ingredients and endless flavor combinations to create the perfect baked Peruvian treat.
From the homemade dough to the organic fillings, completion was not an easy feat. Days and nights consisted of rolling, scooping, stuffing, baking, and sampling until Alex deemed the goods up to par. After our first sale, we were overwhelmed with an enormous sense of accomplishment. In that moment, we knew our perseverance made all the hard work worthwhile.
Life is filled with unexpected pleasures. I never thought I would own a thriving empanada business and Alex never imagined he would settle in Kenosha with a family of four. Seven yearsago our empanadas were baked in the rented kitchen of a homeless shelter. Today we have two food trucks and offer 20 varieties. We are constantly coming up with ways to improve and flourish.
When the current COVID-19 crisis came upon us we knew our community needed us more than ever. As the markets are closed, pre-orders have been our focus. We love delivering our frozen empanadas as it serves to provide healthy, well-balanced food to our customer’s door-steps.
Even though my parents thought we were crazy when we told them we were going to start an empanada business, they have been supporting us every step of the way! We are thankful for our family and appreciate all of our customers. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart, carefully plan, and go for it! Our commitment to the community with quality goods is never–ending, and we are trying to make a positive impact when we can.