I am a third-generation chef from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Here is my story.
Honduras - 1959: One cake started it all.
Everything began 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 its 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.
Honduras - 1970s: Paving the way for growth.
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 70s. My mom brought structure to the business and paved the way for growth. She helped to open the second store, and then a third, a fourth, and a fifth.
Honduras - 1970s – early 1980s: Building the foundation for new paths.
As a kid, I would “play” in the shop—decorating cakes, helping in the production of pastries, assisting customers at the front, taking an inventory at the end of the night, and working the cash register during summer vacation. Little did I know that while I “played,” my mom and grandmom were instilling in me a worth ethic that would stay with me forever; an ethic of uncompromising values.
Honduras - 1986: Working toward a dream.
In 1986, 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.
Philadelphia - 1987 - 2013: Crossroads.
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. After this time, I gained the skills I needed to go for a management position. I was also at a ripe age to have children. Aware of the incompatibility between the restaurant world and motherhood, I had to make a choice. My husband and I agreed we wanted children and I wanted to stay home to raise them. For the time being, I put the dream on the back burner.
Philadelphia - 2013 - 2019 Reclaiming the dream.
My children are grown. I am reclaiming my dream.
With the help and support of family and close friends, I worked 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 involved the fourth generation in the building of Chúgar Bakery so they can continue with this incredible legacy.
2019 - Present day.
My experience as an entrepreneur was exciting—with many ups and downs. I acquired critical skills and learned important lessons. I cultivated relationships with passionate entrepreneurs who inspired and motivated me daily. Unfortunately, running my own business didn't offer me the stability I need at this stage in my life.
I wanted to go back to the Four Seasons, but it closed in 2015. Their plan was to move to a brand new building with new owners, new partners, and new management.
At the beginning of 2019, I learned the "new" Four Seasons would open in the summer. I jumped at the opportunity and joined the pastry team at the new Four Seasons Hotel at the Comcast Technology Center, which opened in June 2019. I am excited to return to a company that cultivates talent and incentivizes creativity.
I've been at the new Four Seasons for four years now. For the past two years, I've been working the bread station, where we make European-style breads and laminated doughs (ex. croissants). The schedule is brutal! I have to wake up at 2:45 am to be at work by 4 am. The days are long and grueling. It is all worth it.
A few more years working the bread station will complete my training. The way I see it, my first eight years working the culinary (savory) side are my undergrad studies, my pastry years are my master's degree, and the years making bread & laminated doughs are my Ph.D.
It will take me a few more years to become an expert on bread and lamination. There is still so much to learn and so much to look forward to. I'm excited to see what the future holds.