By Amanda Kuhnert
“It has always been a dream of mine to start a business and share my passion for healthy and delicious food,” said Jacqueline de Achaval, co-owner of Paprika Catering, an empanada pop-up based in Waterbury. Achaval grew up in Argentina and attended culinary school there before moving to Colorado, where she spent over a decade teaching skiing and catering for small events.
After moving to Vermont in 2019, she worked as a sous chef at Burlington’s Revolution Kitchen before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey. “When I was ready and found the opportunity to start a business, I went for it,” Achaval said. “Empanadas have always been a favorite food of mine. It’s a balanced food and easy to carry around.”
Achaval and her wife, Jen McCabe, held their first pop up at Waterbury’s Stowe Street Café in the fall of 2021. Their empanadas were an instant hit. “I love Vermont very much—the culture around food and all of the resources that we have,” Achaval said, explaining that many of their ingredients are grown and produced locally.
“Over the past year we have been working to improve our product and adapt it to the needs of our customers,” she said. For example, the couple noticed that many of their customers were parents looking for a fast and healthy meal for their families. So they added more kid-friendly flavors to the menu. They also have improved their labels to be clearer about what’s in their products.
Asking for help
Achaval has been proactive about reaching out to various nonprofits, including the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC), for support in both setting up and growing her business. “VtSBDC was extremely helpful in many ways,” she said. “Charles was always there, responsive to my inquiries or doubts I had. He helped me structure and label our business in a way where we can see and plan for growth.”
The next stage of their business involves figuring out how to sell a frozen version of their empanada, so that families can keep them on hand in the freezer.
“We believe in partnership, and Vermont has taught me a lot about that,” she said. “This is a community-based business—we consider everyone who has been involved our partners. We wouldn’t be where we are without all of them. When one of us shines, we all shine. I believe that.”
Paprika Catering pop-ups are currently held on Wednesdays, from 5 to 8 p.m., at Waterbury’s Stowe Street Café, and on Fridays, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Barr Hill Distillery in Montpelier. For more info, check their Facebook and Instagram pages, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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