After another ride on a 12-seater plane back to Managua, we had the pleasure of meeting María Josefina, better known as Doña Pinita. The envy of many a chef in Nicaragua, Doña Pinita runs her own restaurant and bakery, La Terraza Margarita. She became Managua’s first female TV chef when she started hosting her cooking show six years ago, and has published about 15 cookbooks (recetarios) with over 700 recipes.
Like any entrepreneur, Doña Pinita started out small. In the 1980s, when wartime embargoes and blockades left Nicaragua’s supermarket shelves empty, she started baking and selling cookies out of her kitchen. She joined a bakery cooperative, banding together with other women in order to buy ingredients. She named the cookies “Galletas Margaritas” in honor of her daughter, Ana Margarita.
The business grew, and so she added elaborate cakes and pastries to the menu, and eventually her home bakery turned into a full-service restaurant. The family’s living quarters shrank as the restaurant expanded, until she and her husband decided it was time for a new house for the family of six. Today, La Terraza Margarita is one of Managua’s best-known restaurants, and often caters large banquets, weddings and other events.
Doña Pinita didn’t forget her humble beginnings. She made a point to hire employees who were mostly housewives with scarce resources and no training. She trained each one herself in cooking, baking and food service, and now has 50 employees, some of whom have worked at La Terraza for more than 25 years.
Leaders from the Kitchen held a dinner at La Terraza Margarita to honor and thank the enterprising women who have contributed to the cookbook (more on them later!). Everyone feasted on the Caballo Bayo, a traditional Nicaraguan smorgasbord of shredded beef and chicken, annatto marinated pork, fried pork, cracklings, blood sausage, tortillas and fried tortilla chips, guacamole, mashed beans, chunks of fried and fresh cheese.
Doña Pinita herself also graciously supported the cookbook project — she’s lending us a few of her most treasured recipes! For now, have a look at one of her signature desserts — the decadent Pío Quinto (Rum & Custard Cake).
Become a fan of Pinita’s Nicaraguan cooking at Cocinando Con Pinita (Cooking with Pinita) on Facebook.