Women in East Bay Food | In Her Own Words” is a series by Berkeley-based illustrator Kaitlin Strange created for Berkeleyside Nosh. Over the course of several months, Strange interviewed women who work in the East Bay food industry, speaking with them in their places of work, where she was able to get a real insight into their worlds. She felt the best way to share the honesty and passion from their stories was for readers to hear directly from the women themselves, in their own words. Today: Brazilian Breads, which is at 1707 Solano Ave. in Berkeley. (If you’re having trouble viewing the story, download the illustrated interview as a PDF.) — Sarah Han, Nosh Editor

I am originally from the central part of Brazil. I started the same as many who come from Brazil, I found jobs in the home, taking care of kids. But I had the dream of opening a business since university. From a very young age I’ve been interested in food. My mom was always working and she’d say to me, “Do something with your hands, they are better than mine.” So I started to get curious with cooking.
I also have two aunts and they are fabulous in the kitchen and they helped me learn many recipes. We never liked to cook the same recipe. We always liked to find something and put in a different ingredient and try something new. We’ve always cooked different ways. Pão de queijo, Brazilian cheese bread, has been a family tradition for a long long time. It was always at parties or BBQs at the house. We’d all go to Grandma’s house to make cheese bread together. I started making the cheese bread on a large scale when I moved to California. I’d make it for the Brazilian community and for events. And I saw that everyone loved it. So I brought together my mom and grandma’s recipe and found all the ingredients here in the East Bay.
When I opened Brazilian Bread Café, I was really afraid. When I found this space, at the time, I didn’t have an idea for a coffee shop. But when I saw this spot for the first time, I looked around and I thought a Brazilian café here could be awesome. With rent and everything here is really high. And with the high prices in the Bay Area, it can be a challenge. I try to strike a balance with my food. I want to keep it good quality but at an affordable price.
It’s important, when starting a business, to find good people. People to help you. And when you have a small business, you need more than employees — you need partners. The people who work here, they need to engage in your dreams. You have to work together with your team. You can’t do everything by yourself. Believe in people. It’s important. When we work by ourselves, we always think, nobody can do the same as me. But, believe in your team.
So trust that some people have amazing skills. Skills that are better than yours! And find someone to help you with the numbers. Don’t leave the finances to the end of the year. In this line of work, you have to work hard. A lot. One thing I’m working on, as a business woman, is making time for other things. I just live for the business. That’s the way many people do. Until you become sick. So I try to control it. I spend time here and also make time for my family.
I have an agreement with the crew here. They need to take time too. To go somewhere and forget about the job. No one wants to come here and see people being stressed. The neighborhood has been very, very amazing and friendly. When I moved in here — wow! — it was a unique time. So many people came every day. And they still come. They tell their friends, bring their neighbors, and buy cheese bread for their family and parties.
I think for now, success means more. Some days I feel super successful. We had a lot of people, it was a great weekend, and we made great food. But I want more. I want to bring this to more and more people. And not to just sell food here, but to create an experience. People can come here and feel like they’re in Brazil. But also, success is every day. When people come here and are happy eating my food.