Javier Gonzalo and Rosa Carrasco Give a Creative Touch to the Bolivian Empanada
by georgina arias avila
Rosa, Fiorela and Gonzalo make a team based in hard work and family harmony.
From the heart of Bolivia to the heart of Alaska, reads the slogan that defines the culinary enterprise of Javier Gonzalo Carrasco Gamarra and Rosa Liliana Brown. A couple of architects, of Bolivian origin, who offer a new proposal to the palate with the opening last May in Fairbanks, of GR’s Empanada House. “It’s a unique and different taste. It is our interpretation of the Bolivian salteña (another name for empanada). The empanada is versatile, and you stuff it with whatever you want. We have a wide variety of fillings.” Gonzalo said.
The story of this American dream began in 1997 when Gonzalo and Rosa decided to visit Fairbanks for the first time, to introduce their young daughter to her maternal grandparents, who were the first to move to the Golden Heart of the Interior. Motivated by them and by debts that needed to be paid, they decided, together with their two children Fiorela and Nicolas, to follow the same destiny.
“We arrived in 2000. The situation in Bolivia was terrible and we decided to move, debts and all. In 10 years, we were able to pay off everything and made investments in Fairbanks,” Gonzalo said.
Although they love to cook, their beginnings were not in the gastronomic field. My first job was cleaning houses. Then, we worked for a Korean-owned commercial cleaning company for two years. The experience gained motivated us to open our company in 2006. We had employees and serviced the Fairbanks hospital. We closed that business last December to start the Empanada House,” said Rosa.
The dream of selling empanadas began in their kitchen. “With my mom, we started to sell empanadas on Saturdays to Latino families. Then, it became a family business with my husband participating, so we offered them in other areas, the hospital, banks, downtown, etc. We had a client list. We participated in the city fair with our orange food truck and baked our empanadas right there. We sold up to 1000 of them. We did very well,” Rosa said.
Gonzalo and Rosa knew that the days of using a rolling pin to stretch the dough and hand thumb the empanada were over. It was time to start big. In 2020 they acquired two properties. This time putting their personal stamp on the design. “We designed and remodeled every corner making the space functional. This process took us almost a year. We opened to the public last May and thank God the results have been positive,” said Gonzalo.
The vision of bringing Bolivian flavors to the heart of Alaska has been enriched by the creativity of this couple. Not only do they make the classic meat empanadas (plain or spicy), but they have also created new presentations. “We have the classic meat empanadas (Original and Diablo). Our son proposed the cheeseburger filling. We offer a vegetarian choice.Every week we try to vary the salty fillings (such as reindeer meat, pepperoni, ham with mushrooms, etc.) to sweet ones (Oreo cookies, dulce de leche, mango, apple, etc.) We will have a Thanksgiving Dinner” empanada for the national holiday,” he said. “We even made the Barbie empanada, when the film was in theaters, strawberry with cream and pink glitter. It was a total success,” Rosa says.
One of the principles of the Carrasco family’s business is to treat customers as if they were their friends. One diner said he visited the place for the good food and friendly treatment. According to Gonzalo, “honesty, unity, and family harmony are the values of the business. Rosita and I have known each other since school, and we are both passionate about cooking. Fiorela attends the cash register and Nicolas oversees advertising. With God’s help, we plan to open branches in Anchorage and Wasilla in the future.”
They expressed their deep gratitude to the American people for opening their doors and thereby helping them realize their American dream. “My dad said, “things are not measured by physical size but by effort. They have done something giant, they are migrants, and it has cost them a lot.” We are an example of how Hispanic people are getting ahead based on hard work. We do it from the heart, and we believe it has a future,” he said. GR’ Empanada House is located at 2043 Airport Way. Their telephone number is 907-452-6655.
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