Food connects us and makes us travel to places we have never visited. It helps us get to know each other and, on many occasions, a good bite is good enough to brighten up and make our day a better one.
In the midst of the chaos in Venezuela, Gil, his wife and brother arrived in Philadelphia a little over 10 years ago, looking for a better future. Years later, they decided to share their culture in their own way. That's when "Puyero Venezuelan Flavor" was born, a restaurant of authentic Venezuelan flavors that will make you dance in your seat while enjoying a tasty meal.
"We wanted to share our Venezuelan culture from our own perspective." Gil stated. "When we got here, there was only one Venezuelan restaurant, and Philly is a pretty big city, so there was definitely space for a second one. That's when we decided to open "Puyero," which I did with my wife and my brother six years ago. It's been an exciting run since then."
Puyero is not your typical Venezuelan restaurant; the place has a special vibe, with a colorful space, tropical music playing in the background, and dishes with a special touch.
"We get to tell a Venezuelan story by immigrants, and not get like an Epcot Center Venezuelan restaurant, something that we wouldn't connect with.", Gil explained. "When you come to Puyero, you notice that many of the things, music (salsa, reggaeton, hip hop), walls, and food, are more connected to our cities than to the actual country."
Even foreigners have discovered the unique flavor of Puyero's Venezuelan cuisine. Among cachapas, arepas, patacones and tequeños, the place has become a reference in Philly.
"We offer a lot of things, and we focus on street food. We got the arepas, which is a corn flour patty, the Venezuelan bread; we slice it open and stuff it with different things. The "reina pepiada" which is a chicken/avocado salad, might be the one that I enjoy the most." Gil explained. "We also have patacones, which I think are delicious and pretty creative. Those are wild. It's a plantain sandwich that we fry, and we use that plantain as the base, and it's stuffed with so much things. My favorite is the "Patacon Pisao", which is made with a crispy plantain. It has ham, cheese, beef or pork, lots of sauces and it's delicious. Tequeños, the cheese sticks, everyone love those, and obviously the empanadas."
Venezuela = Baseball
If there is anything intimately linked to Venezuela, it is baseball, the country's national sport. These lands have produced major league stars such as Miguel Cabrera, Luis Aparicio, and Jose Altuve. With an MLB team in Philadelphia, it was only a matter of time before the Phillies get to know the restaurant and became frequent guests.
"The first players that came, they're no longer in the team, Andrés Eloy Blanco and Odubel Herrera. They just showed up, I guess they wanted Venezuelan food. They looked it up online and found us."
Eating at Puyero has already become a tradition for the Phillies, who for five years have been able to enjoy their favorite dish "cachapas", both in the restaurant and in the club house to celebrate victories.
"The Phillies don't only go to the restaurant, but we also cook in the club house and deliver food after the games for them. We've been there many times. We do it three or four times during the season. We've been doing this for five years." Gil explained. "Cachapas is their favorite dish, which is like a sweet-corn flour pancake. You let it cook, put some cheese on it and let it melt, then you fold it and eat it with nata, which is like sour cream. It's delicious, and that's like their favorite meal. Sometimes they just want an order of cachapas for the day."
"Once we were working at some place and someone just shows up and starts like 'you guys make cachapas? I used to work for the Phillies in the dugout, and we used to go crazy for cachapas’. It's something a lot of them enjoy, but sadly, because of COVID, we can't go into the kitchen and cook in the club house right now, but there was always a thing for that. You can just tell there was some excitement; there was always a big line when we were cooking and everyone, players and staff, were waiting for them to be ready and done to eat."
Not only have the Phillies made Puyero their gathering spot in the city, but also many of the visiting teams, who don't pass up the opportunity to taste their food.
"There's one time when we were closing, I'm not at the restaurant, and I get a text from someone who works for the Phillies. They texted me and told me 'hey the players are heading over right now', so I said, 'cool, the staff is over there', I gave him my heads up."
"I logged in through the camera and I see there are players ordering food, but I don't recognize any of them. Then I started to notice it was the Boston Red Sox. On that night, you had the Phillies and the Red Sox all eating at Puyero on the same night, right after their game. A lot of the teams order and we deliver it to the club house when they visit; the Braves, Marlins, Blue Jays, many of them."
The World Series comes to Philadelphia
The Phillies are currently experiencing their best moment in baseball after reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009, when they lost to the Yankees. Obviously, the team had to celebrate their victory over the Padres in the NLCS while enjoying Puyero's food.
"The day Ranger Suárez pitched the third game of the NLCS, they ordered some cachapas and empanadas that night to celebrate. I'm sure they had some fun." Gil remembered.
Like any baseball-loving Philadelphian, Gil is looking forward to the World Series with great excitement. The Phillies have made their fans dream again, and they are confident that it is possible to beat a giant like the Astros.
"The Astros are great. They are a very complete team. Obviously, Nola and Wheeler have to be at their best, Ranger Suarez has been awesome. Those three will be the key." Gil analyzed. "Then we also need our big guys to keep swinging the bat. Schwarber needs to keep hitting homers and getting on base, same thing with Hoskins. I don't think we can't ask much more from Harper, he has like 10 XBH and is hitting over .400. If they swing the bat, I don't think Verlander or anyone is going to stop them."
In life, as in baseball, consistency leads to results. Over the past six years, Gil and his family have established Puyero as a landmark in the Philadelphia food industry, but the dream doesn't end there. In the future, they want to continue sharing their culture beyond their own borders.
"We've had a nice run. We've been open for six years now and we've established our name in the Philly food industry, so that's one of the things I feel very proud of." Gil said. "When we first started, we wanted to open a Puyero in every major city in the United States. At this point, it's still an option, but I also feel there's so much more to the Venezuelan culture that I want to share, maybe open up a couple more here in Philly, finally establish ourselves here and then move on to other cities and states."