Soon, Miguel’s unique desserts were gaining a following. He designed his logo – built around the name “Chef Papi” (after the Spanish word for father) – and figured out packaging, learned about product shelf life, and began doing deliveries and accounting. The Financial Futures Program played an ongoing part in building those skills, and continues to complement his real life education.
He began to sell his products at farmer’s markets, and to local food retailers, cafés, internet vendors, and private clients. There were long dry periods when he didn’t sell much, but he shook it off and kept going. So now, just a year after becoming the proud owner and head baker of Chef Papi’s Gluten Free Bakery, Miguel bakes 3 days a week, beginning at 6 a.m. In addition to preparing his regular line, he's constantly trying to improve. “I research the recipes, and I keep playing with them. I'm always building, figuring out how to do it better and quicker,” he says.
And he’s not resting yet. A cycle that started with his own hunger has come around to feeding those in need: This is Personal Achievement with a capital PA. Miguel is looking for investors to incorporate Chef Papi’s Gluten Free, LLC into a social mission committed to providing job skills to “hard-to-employ” residents. He's looking for an investor or partner to open a storefront café in Burlington. If he’s able to do that, he would hire young cooks who have come through the Community Kitchen Program. Giving back is part of his mission, he says, and he emphasizes that without the help he got throughout his life, he wouldn't be where he is today. “CVOEO fed me when I needed to be fed. Then they taught me how to become a better cook,” he says. “I was just a baker at home; now I'm a certified baker because of CVOEO.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Miguel volunteers every Tuesday morning at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf’s soup kitchen, and he and Ron have been Casey Family foster parents
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