Rosario's Peruvian Restaurant in Longmont has become a staple in the Denver metro area over the last 10 years, thanks to the determination and passion for cooking by the restaurant's owner Rosario Cardenas.
Cardenas spends seven days a week at her beloved namesake restaurant, joking that she calls it her "bebé" -- Spanish for "baby."
But how she made the restaurant a success is no joke at all, it's the culmination of hard work and persistence to turn a vision into reality.
"I've always said, if you can dream it, you can accomplish it, and for me, the restaurant was my dream," Cardenas said in an interview with CBS News Colorado translated from Spanish.
Rosario's is an unassuming little place in a small strip mall off Ken Pratt Boulevard, but for the last decade it has been serving up big, bold flavors from recipes Cardenas brought with her from her home in Perú -- recipes that have helped her solidify a status for many as the best Peruvian restaurant in the Denver metro area.
Cardenas has regular customers who will drive three to four hours, some even from Wyoming, just to enjoy her cooking.
"When I cook, I visualize bringing the plate to the table and the look of satisfaction on people's faces, and I'm always thinking what they're going to say and I'm excited to hear their constructive criticisms," Cardenas said. "For me it's not work, it's a delight."
As a former teacher and school principal, cooking used to be just a hobby. But when she immigrated to the U.S., she couldn't use her education degree here, so she decided to use her talents to share her country's unique dishes with her new community, like Peruvian ceviche, which is traditionally made with a special ají pepper and served with sweet potatoes, or lomo saltado, a beef stir fry served over rice.
Rosario's isn't just about delicious food, it's also serving up slices of Peruvian culture. It's part of Cardenas' vision to help customers feel like they've taken a trip to her home country.
"I try to help them learn through my food what Perú can offer as a gastronomic and cultural tourism center, and my focus is that everything we make in this restaurant is of the best quality," Cardenas said.
She created a concept on her menu called "tours," where guests can have samples of all kinds of Peruvian dishes.
"Some don't know what Peruvian food is about, and because of that, I had an idea, I said to myself, 'I want to take them to get to know my country,'" Cardenas said. "So, I made these dishes called Peruvian tours, it's like a small trip to my country."
Her daughter Estefany Martínez has helped out at Rosario's since the restaurant opened.
"Being Peruvian is something that's really important to me, and getting to show that to not just my friends, but also to other people, and them getting to see the best aspect of Peruvian food through my mom's cooking is phenomenal," Martínez said.
She says it's also been wonderful to see how her mom's food has helped bring other Latino cultures together in the metro area.
"Food is a great way to connect, not just with the Peruvian community, but every single community. We have people from Mexico, Columbia, from all parts of South and Latin America, and they are always like, 'I have a hard time finding a restaurant that represents my culture, but your restaurant has been the closest thing that I've been able to find to my mom's cooking or my family's cooking,'" she explained. "So, having us be that connection between other people and their culture and their heritage, I think it's just beautiful."
Martínez says the first couple of years were tough for the restaurant to stay open, but her mom was determined.
"She's my biggest inspiration, I think everything I am now, and everything I've done is because of her," Martínez said. "She's taught me that even if you don't feel like you fit in, fight for who you are."
Inspired by her mom, Martínez is now pursuing a business and marketing degree at the University of Colorado Boulder, and she hopes her mom's success will encourage others to also follow their dreams.
Cardenas said, "this country offers you a lot of opportunities, and as immigrants, we need to do and give the best of us."
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