Independent workers look to the food industry for support as pandemic rages

Some chefs, bakers and food truck owners in South Florida have seen COVID-19 not only as a struggle but also as a way to make a profit. 

Independent food workers have found ways to start their own businesses while others who were already working in the industry innovated to make money during the pandemic.

Anauris Viera, owner of La Cocinita de Dali, started her business selling Venezuelan food after being laid off from a restaurant. She said that the coronavirus crisis put her in a very difficult situation, but at the same time, it pushed her toward something she likes.

“I had no job, my expenses never stopped and well, I had to think of what to do and that is how I launched La Cocinita de Dali,” she said.

Zeroregrets cake business is now Gabriela Albornoz’s only source of money after the COVID-19 outbreak (Photo courtesy of Zeroregrets)

Gabriela Albornoz, owner of Zeroregrets healthy cakes, experienced a similar situation. Albornoz was working at Best Buy when she started her business of baking healthy cakes. She began in January before the coronavirus spread in the United States. After the pandemic began, Best Buy closed, and the cake business became her only source of income.

“Because I’m not working at Best Buy, I was able to dedicate myself to do desserts,” Albornoz said. “Now, I am promoting my own business and I am dedicating the time that I did not have before.”

These self-employed workers agreed that while the future of their business is unknown, the only solution, for now, is to adapt to the current crisis.

Veronica Buitrago, the owner of Sabor Venezolano Food Truck, started her business long before the coronavirus began spreading, but she saw a significant change in sales when the pandemic hit. Her food truck had to close for two consecutive weeks and, after this, she made the transition to delivery which helped her business recover little by little.

“When we closed completely, it was hard since there are things to pay,” Buitrago said. “Then we started doing deliveries. Sales were not the same, but at least we were making money.”

One of the biggest problems the business owners struggled with was being able to get all the necessary products in the supermarket and adapting their prices due to the shortages of food. The owner of Zeroregrets said that she had to go through many supermarkets to find all the necessary food products to continue making her cakes.

These businesses have also had to adapt to new safety guidelines so their clients feel safe.

“We have gloves, masks and everything goes through a cleaning process,” said Viera, owner of La Cocinita de Dali. “Also, when we do the deliveries, we make sure to keep our distance.” 

Viera, Albornoz and Buitrago said that despite the setbacks, they’ve had positive experiences.  

“Something I found positive about this situation is that practically, the food business never stopped,” said Sabor food truck owner Buitrago.  “It allowed us to generate income throughout this crisis.”

Katherine Castro is a Junior Broadcast Journalism student at Florida International University.  She was born and raised in Venezuela until 2016 when she moved to the United States. She is passionate about being a Journalist since she was a kid. One of her favorite things to do is traveling, and she likes the idea of being able to communicate with a mass of people and tell them what is currently happening in different parts of the world.