Danilo Escobar was 8 years old when he first started learning how to bake from his mother in Escuintla, Guatemala. Danilo’s parents owned a bakery in the city and, for the next 10 years, Danilo continued to learn from his mother. By the time Danilo was 18 years old, he was a proficient baker and dreamed of opening up his own bakery.
That dream became a reality just over a year ago. On Aug. 25, Danilo and the Escobar family celebrated their one-year anniversary of Cultura Bakery and Café.
“We’ve always wanted a restaurant, to kind of share what my mom knows and what my dad knows,” Daniela Escobar, daughter of Danilo and Zobeida, said. The restaurant provides more than just a business for the family. For Zobeida and Danilo, the restaurant and bakery is a service to their heritage and the community.
The restaurant, which is located in downtown Provo, serves the Escboar family recipes for Guatemalan dishes and breads.
Danilo handles the majority of the baking for the restaurant. He arrives early in the morning, around 5 a.m., to start the process of preparing the day’s dough. Danilo’s experience with baking is clear, his swift motions demonstrate a familiarity that only comes with years of experience and repetition. He focuses on weight and consistency in each bread that he shapes with his hands.
“He says he can bake all day,” Daniela Escobar said.
Danilo explains that the baking relaxes him and the dynamic nature of baking is what he enjoys. Also, he appreciates seeing the reactions in the customers when they try his bread.
Danilo doesn’t feel the pressure that comes with providing food to customers that may have never experienced Guatemalan bread before, but is confident in the recipes and the ingredients that he uses. Also, he explains that he is always putting his heart into each batch that goes into the oven.
For Zobeida, who does the majority of the cooking at the restaurant, the business is an opportunity to serve everyone who walks through the door. “It is something that I have inside of me, to care about somebody else,” Zobeida said.
Her caring comes outside of cooking too, but for everyone who comes into the restaurant, they are being served dishes that have been passed down through generations of cooks with slightly variations for individual style. Many of Zobeida’s dishes have been influenced by her grandmother and from Danilo’s mother.
Through the restaurant and the food that the Escobars are making is an opportunity to share the family’s history and for customers try a piece of Guatemalan culture. While the family faced hardships starting the business and the demands of a restaurant can be tiring, the positives have easily outweighed the difficulties.
“It’s amazing, because it is the way we share with people our culture,” Zobeida said.
The sacrifice that the restaurant has brought is familiar territory for Danilo and Zobieda. In 1993, Zobeida and Danilo moved to California with their three children. Their fourth child was born in California. Five years later, the family moved back to Guatemala. The family was making plans to return and their family members living in Provo suggested that the area was a good place to raise a family. Soon after, Danilo and Zobeida had their children move up to Provo and then they followed the year after.
Even after the family started to settled into Provo, the parents were not sure if they were going to stay. “We tried to go to Los Angeles, for visiting, to see what happens, but we didn’t like it all,” Zobeida said.
The family had plans to leave Provo after months, but they went to church and started to pray for directions for their family and their life. Danilo started to serve in church and the family took it as a sign to stay. The decision was made for the family, who appreciated the pace of life in Utah Valley.
“Here is more peaceful … and you can see it is a good place to settle down,” Zobeida said.
Danilo does note that the rhetoric on immigration can be difficult at times, because everyone pays for one person’s errors or wrongdoing. One person who does something immoral can completely reshape the view of an entire section of a community. However, Danilo is extremely grateful for the opportunities that have come with the family’s move to the United States. He also appreciates the opportunity the restaurant brings for presenting one’s culture and providing access to foods that may not otherwise be available for many in the community.
The restaurant is the family’s second business in the county. The first, Blessing Pallets, has been in operation since 2006 and was started at their home. The homegrown nature of a business is how the bakery started too. Three years ago, the Escobars started to bake in their house during the winters. They connected with people interested in the bread through Facebook. This informal success compelled the family to upsize their production and availability.
Zobeida notes the importance of passing on the traditions and culture of Guatemala. She believes in understanding the methods, but also in sharing those with her children and for customers. “The most important thing is that whoever comes here is a part of our family,” Zobeida said.
The focus on family is evident in the business. Three of the Zobeida and Danilo’s children help manage and work at their restaurant. “Every single kid is very hard worker and don’t give up easily,” Zobeida said. There is a congruency in the ambitions of their children and their own.
Daniela believes this similarity comes from how they were raised and the history their family has.
“He has always taught us not to forget our roots and where we come from, because we are here because of something they went through and what they worked for” Daniela said.
This work ethic permeates the family and Zobeida makes sure to thank Danilo’s sister, Griselda Escobar, who lives in Orem. She has been assisting the family in the restaurant and continues to be a big support.
Zobeida’s advice for anyone taking on a task is that you can face issues together and the most important thing is “to always be united.”
Even after the days of work from sunup to sundown, Zobeida is proud of what the family has accomplished and “All the struggles have been worth it.”