Since mid-adolescence, food has been Gabriela Guerrero’s passion. She watched cooking shows on television, scribbled down the recipes and then cooked for her family and asked, “Is it good or is it very good?” Then, she would keep working at the recipe until they told her it was delicious. In November of 2015, that passion became Delicioso Creperie, a brick-and-mortar business in the lobby of Hamm’s building at 1550 Bryant that specializes in crepes with Mexican fillings.
While the words “crepe” and “Mexican” are not often paired, international cuisine is second nature to Guerrero, who grew up in a small town in Mexico with parents who travelled often for pleasure and sometimes for business to countries like France, Lebanon and Germany. About 20 years ago, Guerrero, now in her 40s, spent time in Germany, Spain, Belgium, and France. The first crepe she tasted, at a restaurant called Cluny’s in her hometown, had Mexican fillings. During her travels through Europe, she had her first traditional crepe with nutella in Paris. “And I loved it,” she said.
Five years later in 1999, Guerrero resolved to move in with family in the East Bay and study culinary arts. But her path to Delicioso Creperie was long and difficult.
The future business owner began her career at the Pasta Shop in Berkeley, but it wasn’t until managing and waitressing at Sconehenge Cafe in Berkeley that she met a co-worker who connected her to La Cocina, a food business incubator that primarily serves low-income immigrant women of color.
The program has rigorous standards for whom they accept, but Guerrero’s entrepreneurial spirit, immigrant and low-income status, and a viable product made her an excellent candidate. As Jessica Mataka, the development and communications associate for La Cocina, noted, Guerrero came to the United States with the dream of starting her own food business and La Cocina decided Mexican crepes would be a wonderful and unique product.
But still, unique was not enough. Her first application to La Cocina was rejected because her business plan was only one page long. She packed her schedule for the next year with financial classes and on her second try, La Cocina accepted her business plan. At that point, Guerrero said, her dream became “more real.” She began planning menus, marketing strategies, and finance, but three years later, Guerrero was still dividing her time between a job as a waitress and her own business.
But a friend advised her to stop splitting her time, take a loan, and fully commit to her business. Guerrero decided to take her friend’s suggestion and focused on catering. Then, last June, La Cocina notified her that a space was opening up in Hamm’s Building at 1550 Bryant where La Salumeria once was. With La Cocina by her side, Guerrero said she was “never alone” during negotiations with the landlords.
Finally, the week of Thanksgiving 2015, Delicioso Creperie opened. Demand for vegan and gluten-free crepes led Guerrero to contact her sister, a private chef in the Nice region of France. In that region, her sister told her, chefs use chickpea rather than buckwheat flour to make socca crepes. It is this naturally vegan and gluten-free crepe that the owner deems her signature dish, although offerings also include standard buckwheat and egg crepes, salads, and bagels. “Listen, listen, listen,” Guerrero deemed essential to her business at this stage, so due to customer feedback, the menu is expanding to include more sandwiches, bagels, Mexican tortas, burritos, and pastries.
“It’s been very hard,” she said of her path from a dream to a brick-and-mortar business. And the challenge is not over. “I know it’s difficult to get here, but it’s another challenge to maintain the business… It’s like seven job titles… But at the end of the day… you realize how strong you can be.” After fifteen years of struggle, “It’s very satisfying for me,” Guerrero pronounced. “Professionally, I feel very proud of me.”