What started out as a way to bring a family closer together has now become a business looking to add a new twist to a traditional food and give customers a one-of-a-kind experience.
With no formal culinary training, the love for food developed in Batista after growing up with his grandparents and seeing his grandfather go from someone who was rarely seen in the kitchen to someone who prepared “restaurant-style food.”
After his grandmother passed away, Batista’s grandfather — who was from Panama and worked on the Panama Canal, where he was exposed to different cultures and cuisines — took over the kitchen and would cook for his family.
“He had a philosophy that if he cooked, everyone in the family would come and bring their friends,” Batista said. “He wanted a thousand people around him.”
Batista learned from his grandfather, who later passed away from cancer, how to cook different dishes and his favorite food was empanadas.
Years later, Batista — who has Dominican, Puerto Rican and Panamanian backgrounds — married a Trinidadian woman and was introduced to an even broader spectrum of food.
He began cooking and making empanadas as a hobby and for family functions but slowly received positive responses and began to be paid to make dishes. In February, he decided to take that favorite pastime and turn it into a business.
YourPanadas takes the idea of empanadas and recreates them based on different dishes and also based on what the customer wants. Customers are allowed to choose the shells of the empanadas and select from an array of stuffing ranging from a beef and chorizo combo, curry chicken and Korean barbecue all the way to red velvet cake and s’mores. The menu also features Batista’s own take on traditional dishes such as tostones (fried green plantain) and fried yuca, and includes a “refreshing” organic drink called peanut punch.
YourPanadas also feature a new and innovative take on fried ice cream — put inside an empanada drizzled with dulce de leche — which is only available in person at markets or events.
“It’s YourPanadas. It’s your food so you decide what goes in your mouth. You decide what goes into your food,” Batista said.
Batista added that all ingredients used to make the empanadas are fresh and of high quality, and each empanada is individually fork-pressed — which is why the logo of the company features a fork.
The logo also shows Batista’s love for Queens — being born and raised in Jackson Heights and moving to Queens Village five years ago — with the colors orange and blue representing the Knicks and Mets.
“The premise of the company is we make these empanadas for people,” he said. “I’m very open to changing things, adding things, because this company is really about the customer. I just listen to my audience.”
However, Batista is looking to continue to grow the business and recently turned to Kickstarter in the hope of raising $10,000 to purchase the company’s very first food truck. The plan is to grow the company as a food truck business and later open a brick-and-mortar location.
“The love that we are getting is amazing,” Batista said. “I’m confident that we will make the goal just because of all the support we are getting.”
Even with being a new business, YourPanadas was recently nominated in the category for best market vendor at the upcoming NYC Vendy Awards on Sept. 12. Batista said that once they have a food truck, they plan to return next year and compete in more categories.
“It’s different than what you’ve had. Even if we have very familiar food items, we try to be different so you know that that food came from us,” he said.