I am a third-generation chef from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
The story begins with my grandmother, Maria Teresa Lupiac, a driven and hugely talented lady who became a widow at 43. She started her bakery in Honduras in 1959 as a way to make a living to support her three teenage children. She started baking ONE cake and selling it by the slice. People went crazy over her food and her quality. During a span of 50 years, my grandmother built the most prestigious pastry shop, El Hogar, in the capital city. She became famous for her innovative products and unparalleled quality.
My mother, Juliana Pineda Lupiac, a fearless visionary whose commonsensical approach to business is nothing short of genius, joined the pastry shop in the late 70’s. Mom brought structure to the business and paved the way for growth. She helped to open the second store, and then a third, and a fourth and a fifth.
As a kid I would “play” in the shop—decorating cakes, helping in the production of pastries, helping customers at the front, taking inventory at the end of the night, working the cash register during summer vacation—. Little did I know that while I “played” my mom and grandmom were instilling in me a work ethic that would stay with me forever—an ethic of uncompromising values.
In 1987, after I expressed interest in studying cooking, my mom and grandmom picked The Restaurant School in Philadelphia for me to get my education in classical French cooking. My dream was to continue with my family’s legacy. Since I wasn’t going back to Honduras, I would have to do it here in Philadelphia, but first I needed to get the best chef training possible.
I apprenticed at the Four Seasons Hotel's kitchen under Chef Jean Marie Lacroix, where I stayed for 10 years. I worked all the stations: eight years in the main kitchen and two years in the pastry shop. At this point I had the skills to go on my own. I was also at a ripe age to have children. Tough choice. It had to be one or the other. My husband and I agreed that we wanted children and I would stay home to raise them. For the time being, I put the dream in the back burner.
Today my children are grown. I am reclaiming my dream. I am thrilled to share with you the food that my grandmother and mother made for decades and the food I’ve developed myself during this amazing journey. With the help and support of my family—husband, children, siblings and their spouses, nieces and nephews—I am working on making Chúgar Bakery the venue to immortalize my mother and grandmother and make a name for our family.
Following in the footsteps of the last two generations, I am involving the fourth generation in the building of Chúgar Bakery so they can continue with this incredible legacy.