When Carlota Cisneros immigrated to Canada six years ago, she got her new life off the ground by working at a local Staples. Although the company taught her about the workings of a new country, Cisneros has always been a cook at heart.
She would bring forth this passion at work parties, baking cakes and other delicacies without charge. The reception was always an astounding success – everyone loved her food.
After a coworker questioned why she wasn’t pursuing cooking for a living, the rest became history.
Since then, she has introduced Divine Mexican Kitchen (soon to be renamed to just Mexican Kitchen), a popular stall that offers everything from authentic Mexican tostadas to a cup of Ethiopian dark roast coffee.
“I still remember when my co-worker suggested that I [pursue cooking] as a living – I was so shocked,” she said.
“Even though I loved cooking, the thought never even crossed my mind because it seemed [like an impossible feat]. I told her: ‘I am penniless, I have no money to start a restaurant.’”
At that point, Cisneros’ friend introduced her to the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, meaning she would not have to open a full restaurant to sell her food.
“It was the first time I had ever heard of something like that… when I [went to visit], I fell in love right away,” said Cisneros.
Cisneros, known affectionately around the market as Katy, emphasized that all of her food is both authentic and fresh; she sources ingredients from neighbours around the market for her tostadas, tamales, quesadillas, tacos and even Mexican pozole soup, among other delicacies. Besides traditional Mexican cuisine, Cisneros also offers fantastic homemade chocolates and cakes, as well as freshly-brewed coffee.
But it wasn’t always this way.
“I started [Divine Mexican Kitchen] over a year ago now with only chocolates, cakes and coffee… I brought [my coffee] directly from Ethiopia, which I fell in love with. But everyone I knew kept asking me where the Mexican food was… a few of them started to come by and I just started to serve them food naturally even though it wasn’t on my menu.”
Although Cisneros has since added Mexican food to her menu, she still prepares dishes that customers request.
“I still say yes to requests, but my customer base has grown so large now that sometimes I get myself into a bit of trouble by saying yes all the time,” she said.
“I still remember when my co-worker suggested that I [pursue cooking] as a living – I was so shocked.”
Owner, Divine Kitchen
Customers old and new stop by to praise both her dependable menu items and to request an off-menu Mexican dish they crave.
Word of her talent has spread beyond the market, allowing her to do catering jobs on the market’s off days. Just a few weeks ago, the city of Hamilton hired Cisneros to make hors d’oeuvres for 200 people at an event. Although she enjoys catering, Cisneros’ heart lies with the market.
“I adore being [at the market]. It really, really is like a big family. Everybody knows each other and the kids come by to say hello… I consider it as an extension of my own family. It’s funny… everyone is surprised, especially my husband, that I’m loving this so much. My husband used to tell me how I wouldn’t be able to keep this up, how it’s not for me and that it’s too much… but here I am, and I am loving it more than ever.”
When asked what visitors of Divine Mexican Kitchen can expect, Cisneros says that the experience goes beyond just excellent food.
“I’m really proud of the hospitality and atmosphere here… my customers tell me how it always feels very happy when they visit… every day I am excited to open the store because even though people are so different, they all love my food. Whether you are Mexican, Canadian or any other ethnicity, I hope my food will help you build connections with all types of people and connect you with our little family here at the Mexican Kitchen.”