The Queen of Empanadas
Argentinean entrepreneur Jezabel Careaga aims to teach Philadelphians how to live a healthier life and discover the authentic flavors of her home country’s…
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A passionate, lifelong learner, Jezabel Careaga is teaching Philadelphia how to live a sustainable healthy life while giving them a taste of authentic South American cuisine. It all got started a little more than 10 years ago when Jezabel, with business and restaurant experience from both her native Argentina and Miami, came to the city to run a little café in the Fitler Square neighborhood.
“When we started it was just a normal, everyday café,” Jezabel said.
However, little by little Jezabel started to add touches of Argentinean cuisine, such as empanadas and alfajores, dishes that at the time appeared nowhere else in the city.
“We really had to educate the public about what Argentinean food really is,” explained Jezabel. “They came in asking for hot sauce on their empanadas.”
Jezabel’s specialty is cooking from her native of Jujuy in Northwestern Argentina. Due to its location next to Chile, Bolivia and Peru, the local fare is quite different from the south where Buenos Aires is located. The options are spicier, more full of flavor and include more corn. These small touches are seen in the spicy, rich empanadas Jezabel bakes.
Nonetheless, Jezabel is a master chef and delights in cooking foods from all over the world. She sometimes cooks the doughier, sweeter empanadas from Chile and speaks with delight about her upcoming trip to London where she will delve into the tea culture.
Her passion and excitement for learning is something she is looking to give to her customers who turn to her for advice not just about food, but sustainable living in general. To this end, she has opened up a new location, Jezabel’s studio, in West Philadelphia, a delightful teahouse with furniture she built herself alongside her brother who provided help with the metalwork.
In this quiet, relaxing location she offers cooking classes with focuses that range from empanadas to Argentinean pizza to general cooking. The idea has given Jezabel a more creative outlet in which to experiment with cuisine, but also serves as a way for her to give back to the public.
“I want to teach people how to cook small things that have a big impact in the long run,” explained Jezabel, “even something as simple as chopping an onion.”
For example, instead of just having students prepare and bake scones entirely at the studio, Jezabel has them leave with a tray of prepared ingredients that they then take to their house to bake there. Students learn tricks of the trade at the studio, but the goal is for them to be able to continue on at home.
Likewise, the studio also offers an assortment of items Jezabel believes will make her customers’ lives easier and more sustainable in the long run, such as Turkish towels that take up less room and dry quickly.
“I swear by the Turkish towels,” said Jezabel. “I want other people to also have that experience.”
The focus on community and a safe hospitable environment is at the heart of what Jezabel seeks to offer.
“At the end of the day food is about family,” said Gabriel Machado, Jezabel’s Buisiness Strategy and Communication Leader. “The family gathers around food.”
Looking forward Jezabel is considering opening another space, this time in Patagonia, Argentina where her parents live.
“It’s about more than just Philadelphia. I want to create a company with a purpose,” said Jezabel, “where my employees can be a part of something.”
To learn more about Jezabel, her spaces or cooking classes, check out jezabelsstudio.com. The studio will be holding a special empanadas class on April 5th to celebrate National Empanada Day.