Leila’s Empanadas is celebrating National Empanada Day in style by hosting tastings at two of its partnered pickup locations.
Tasting events will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, April 8, at Sam’s Frozen Yogurt in Anthem, and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 9, at Lil Miss Butcher in Cave Creek.
Leila Beltrame, the owner and chef of Leila’s Empanadas, is looking forward to marketing her empanadas.
“I think when people try it, they will see that it’s a nice product,” she says. “It’s not expensive, and it’s easy to keep in your freezer. We can better explain what it is. We want to build our brand because we’re new here.”
Beef, chicken and olive, and apple créme brûlée will be available to purchase at the tastings. In addition to empanadas, Leila’s Empanadas makes gluten-free cheese rolls.
“Nowadays, a lot of people are allergic to gluten, and we want to help with that,” Beltrame says. “We try to use the better ingredients that are around.”
Born in Brazil 52 years ago, Beltrame watched her mother and grandmother cook. Constantly being around that birthed a passion and a dream to start a food business.
“They always cooked, and I learned to cook how they did when I was a kid,” she says. “It was my dream to have a business in food. My inspiration was my family, because they always cooked.
“It’s my passion. I don’t want to do another kind of job. My mind is always cooking, cooking, cooking. Everything is hard for me; cooking is easy.”
Beltrame moved to the Valley of the Sun seven years ago. She knew she wanted to start the business but recognized the need to learn English. She spent two years dedicated to learning the language.
“It was hard for me to (learn English),” she says. “I wanted to start my business, but I didn’t know English.”
Though Beltrame’s husband occasionally assists, she has just one full-time employee cooking with her. She says empanadas can be difficult to make, but for her it is a “pleasure.” She doesn’t view her work as a job, but rather a passion.
Leila’s Empanadas is partnered with Homeless Engagement Lift Partnership in benefiting their H.E.L.P. Snackz Program. A portion of every order placed at the tasting events or online at leilasempanadas.com will go toward battling local child hunger.
The program is close to her heart, as she grew up in a poor farming family.
“I understand what these kids feel when they come home from school and don’t have much to eat,” Beltrame says. “How are they going to learn? How are they going to have a good life when they don’t have food? It’s impossible. It is a pleasure to me to help these kids, because I believe in good food having a nice treatment. They will grow and be nice people and be different.”
While Beltrame is proud to give back locally, she also takes pride in her product. Her empanadas and cheese rolls are low calorie and are made with organic ingredients that do not contain any artificial preservatives or hormones.
“Let’s eat well, together!” is her and the company’s mantra.
“Sometimes food has a lot of those bad things inside, and you don’t need that,” she says. “You can do a lot of good with good ingredients. ‘Let’s eat well, together!’ means we can eat well and help other people. Together, we can help each other.”
To sell her product, Leila’s Empanadas partnered with Sam’s Frozen Yogurt, Lil Miss Butcher, and her latest partner, BUTI MVMNT Studio in Scottsdale.
Under Beltrame’s model, she provides a freezer and her product, while her partners make commission based off what they sell.
Leila’s Empanadas’ products are available through the company’s website for local pickup or regional delivery via DoorDash and Grubhub and run $33 per dozen.