As the 2023 James Beard Foundation “Taste America” event approaches, Jezabel Careaga is reminded of why she became a restaurateur
The Argentine-born entrepreneur is the owner of Jezabel’s, and is taking part in her first Taste America event to celebrate Philly’s rich culinary diversity.
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When Jezabel Careaga was growing up in Jujuy, a town in northwestern Argentina, her parents were adamant about three things.
“That myself and my siblings learn English as a second language, have really good education and whenever there was a chance we visited new cultures and new cities,” Careaga said during an interview with AL DÍA.
She’d take all three pieces of advice to heart.
At 18, she moved to Cordoba, Argentina, to attend Escuela Superior de Turismo y Hoteleria “Marcelo Montes Pacheco”, where she studied Tourism and Hotel Management, with a focus on foreign languages.
She’d later pursue a business degree at Universidad Empresarial Siglo XXI.
However, Careaga has bigger goals in mind.
“My goal was always to live abroad,” she said.
A U.S. Relocation and Business Endeavor
Right after graduating from her master’s program, Careaga relocated to Miami to start a career in Hotel Management.
Careaga has personally always had a love for food and business, and was eager to combine the two.
“I had the dream to have a restaurant and tea house in my late 30’s,” she reflected.
However, she managed to accomplish the feat even sooner.
In 2010, Careaga moved to Philadelphia and opened Jezabel’s, an Argentine cafe and restaurant.
“I grew up cooking with my grandma, my mom, aunts and my family; having this close relationship with cooking, healthy good and how important it is to nourish your body with local seasonal vegetables is definitely represented today at Jezabel’s,” she noted.
Like all business owners and restaurateurs, the COVID-19 pandemic brought its share of challenges, particularly the uncertainty and critical need to quickly pivot operations.
However, Careaga shared that she managed to overcome those early challenges, thanks to the wise words of her father.
He said, “There is opportunity in every crisis.”
“So I definitely took the challenge and figured out a way to keep money flowing, stay healthy and put one foot in front of the other one until I got a better grip of the uncertainty,” said Careaga.
“I was able to identify what works, and what are the little things you can every day to keep things afloat," she continued.
Careaga has found that she is one of those individuals who works better when there is a need for troubleshooting and finding creative solutions, and the pandemic presented her with an opportunity to do just that.
Celebrating Culinary Diversity
Throughout the pandemic, Careaga was able to find camaraderie and companionship with other like-minded business owners.
That was inspiring to her.
On Tuesday, March 28, the James Beard Foundation will be hosting its 10th annual Taste America event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Taste America is a nationwide initiative to bring together chefs, guests, and diners from across the country to celebrate the local independent restaurants at the heart of our communities.
Jezebel’s perfectly fits that description in the Philadelphia community, as she prepares to take part in her first Taste America event next week.
She will be one of more than a dozen featured local chefs, highlighting the richness and diversity of the food scene in the region.
Some of the other participating chefs include Kiki Aranita of Poi Dog; Eli Collins of a.kitchen + bar; Amanda Shulman of Her Place Supper Club; Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa; and Chutatip ‘Nok’ Suntaranon of Kalaya; among several others.
“I am in great company among some of the best owners and chefs in Philadelphia,” said Careaga.
When asked what attendees can expect from here, she highlighted “an unexpected flavor of Northwestern Argentine combined with the local bounty of Philadelphia.”
Her menu will consist of Northwestern Argentine Empanadas de Carne with Tomato-Garlic Confit Sauce.
“Our empanada dough is made with olive oil, and empanadas are baked, so they are light, yet loaded with flavor,” said Careaga. “with pimenton, cumin and chili flakes that is representative from that part of Argentina.”
In addition, you can expect a smile from her and her team.
“Food is important, of course, but so is the love and care that we put into feeding people every day,” she added.
To Careaga, the Taste America event’s biggest value is the opportunity to highlight the region’s biggest culinary talents.
“Philadelphia is a gritty city — which makes us resilient — but also a refined one, and that is what you will experience on March 28th at the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” Careaga concluded.
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