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Inspired by Her Family’s Hustle, This South Gate Latina Quit Her Job to Pursue Her Love of Baking Chocoflan: ‘I Have It In My Blood’

2:53 PM PDT on March 31, 2022

    Life is truly all about taking risks and not knowing if things will work out or if your new venture will flourish into something bigger than anything you expected. This became extremely clear in 2020 in 2021 when it seemed as though the pandemic either put many things into perspective for people or pushed many into taking risks by pursuing their passion. 

    For Evelyn Barillas from South Gate, it was both an “it's about time” moment and a need for extra income after she left her 9 to 5 job. At the time, she was working with special needs students both in schools and at home, but due to the rise of COVID-19 causing school closures, she began to lose work and hope. So after much convincing from her sister, she did the unexpected. 

    “I decided just to quit, which we don't do in my family, and we don't just quit. It was the first time that I prioritized myself,” said Barillas as she sat in her kitchen. “I quit and focused full-on on baking, and my sister created the page. I ordered the stickers, got my merch, and started selling.”

    That’s how Chocoflancitos Evelyn was born. What started as simply baking chocoflanes for the family turned into creating a dessert for all to enjoy. For four months, she focused solely on growing her business and survived off of her chocoflan sales before finding the job she has now. Where she works as an inclusion coordinator, creating educational plans for teachers to be able to better include students who fall under the autism and special needs spectrum. But the chocoflan baking did not stop. It became clear that it was not just a side hustle; it was a passion she intended to invest in.

    “Regardless of how many hours I work in my day job or how tired I am, baking is such a stress reliever for me,” she said. “Seeing people enjoy my dessert makes me so happy I am so lucky my sister encouraged me to sell them because here I am now, selling them year-round.”

    Chocoflancito's prized chocoflan.
    Chocoflancito's prized chocoflan. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

    The 28-year-old sells her mouth-watering individual chocoflanes and party-sized ones via her Instagram account and at community pop-up events. As for her chocoflanes, one thing is for sure they are never dry, and it’s a detail she takes pride in. There’s no room for any pan seco (dry bread) on her menu. Every chocoflan is moist, the flan itself is so creamy. It almost melts in your mouth, and the sweetness is mild and never overpowering. The Huntington Park native and South Gate resident offers a variety of flavors, from the classic chocolate flavor to more experimental flavors like strawberry, banana bread, carrot, and coco (coconut). It’s important to note that all flavors are not only inspired by each of her family members, but any flavor she experiments with has to be approved by them. “If my family approves it, it goes on the menu,” she said. 

    And if you’re wondering where she gets her hustle from, she’ll tell you she gets it from her father, a very talented flower vendor. Over the years, he has made all of their families flower arrangements for their quinceañeras, weddings, and any special event. And this year, the two joined forces for Valentine's Day, a tradition they plan to continue. 

    “His hustle has always inspired me, and now I get to hustle with him on celebratory days. He sells flowers, and I sell my chocoflancitos; it’s the perfect combination,” Barillas said. 

    Another person she credits for her love for baking is her late mother, Consuelo. It turns out her mother’s side of the family used to own a panadería (bakery) in México. A panadería that her mother worked in making specialty desserts, just like her. 

    “I just have it in my blood,” she said. “My mom used to specialize in niños envueltos (jelly rolls), it’s a white pan (cake) with a red jelly filling that’s topped with shredded coco, she was an expert in that bread, but they also used to make conchas, churros, bolillo. So it’s literally in me.”

    Family photos via Evelyn Barrillas.
    Family photos via Evelyn Barrillas.
    Family photos via Evelyn Barrillas.
    Family photos via Evelyn Barrillas.

    Barillas explained that her family dynamic is a little different than others, although she does not understand why things happened the way they did. She is very thankful for the life she’s been given. She explained that the man she calls her father is her uncle.

    “My mom passed away when I was just six years old, and my biological father got deported to Guatemala when I was 10, so my uncle and aunt stepped in and raised me,” she explained. “I'm very grateful for that. I am who I am because they raised me to be this person.”

    Despite the hardships she’s had to endure from a very young age, Barillas seems to have always remained optimistic. In 2014 she visited her biological father and his family in Guatemala for the first time. She said they had never tried a chocoflan, and since it was her grandmother's birthday, she decided to make one, making that day one of her fondest memories involving a chocoflan.

    “I have that memory imprinted in my head, so every time I’m baking these chocoflanes, I’m just like, ‘Aww, my grandma’ because it reminds me of her,” Barillas said as she recalled her time in Guatemala. 

    Although she is still in the early stages of her business, she said she isn't necessarily against one day opening up her own panadería just like the one her family had in Mexico. But whether she ever gets to open up a panadería or if she decides to keep her business small, all she hopes is for people to continue to enjoy her chocoflanes. Her favorite part about selling them is hearing from customers and seeing their faces light up when they take that first bite. As for what advice she has for anyone wanting to take a risk to pursue their passion, she said.

    “Just go ahead and do it even if you're afraid. The worst thing that can happen is it just didn't work out, but at least you tried. I think it’s always best to put yourself out there and not stay with the what if. That's how I was at first, but also, I would say do it with love, do it with passion not just for the financial side but do it because you actually enjoy the process, and like I said, with love, everything is possible.”

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