Throughout the span of 32 years, Florencia Anaya’s role has manifested in many forms: a nomad, a mother, a friend, an employee, a cancer survivor, and now, a business owner. In her current manifestation, she has been able to turn word of mouth marketing into a thriving business that focuses on community building and delicious food. Her instant intimacy and familiarity with customers, even though her brick and mortar has been open for a month, is part of the charm of not only herself but her namesake, Fufi Restaurant that it’s no wonder curious stragglers become cherished friends at the establishment.
I sat with Anaya–or rather I sat while she effortlessly maneuvered the restaurant while wearing multiple hats–to talk about her favorite subject: food.
What do you do and why?
I feel like a…I adapt. I am someone who adapts to different situations in life. I’ve been through so many stages and cycles in my life. I’ve been a mom, I’ve been a nomad, I’ve been an employee, a business owner. And as to what category do I fit in, I guess a blend of all of those. I’m a bit of everything.
You mentioned you were a nomad. Where were some of the places you’ve been before settling here?
[I was] born and raised in Argentina. I moved here when I was 17. Moved to Colorado for two years, then I decided to go radical and go from snow to beaches. So I went to Hawaii. Lived there for two years. And after two years, I thought that it was a little too far away. So I came to Miami, which I felt was more closer to home, within the states. This is the closest to my family and friends in the states; it’s only one flight away. But this is home to me. I’m Argentinian by nature but American by choice. In any other state that I lived, I don’t think I would feel as much at home as I do in Miami.
How did you come up with the name Fufi Empanadas/Restaurant?
My dad’s side of the family is native Argentinian. My mom’s side is Scottish all the way. My mom’s dad and my dad’s dad were marines, so when they met, my parents met. And I guess they fell in love. So my mom’s side of the family could not say my nickname, Flopi. Mind you Flopi in Argentina is short for Florencia. It’s a very popular name. So my mom’s side of the family were like,“we can’t call her Flopi.” So my grandmother came up with Fufi. Nobody knows where she got that name. I had no idea how funny the nickname was until I came to the states.
Nobody cooked. One of my grandmothers used to make empanadas. She didn’t know how to cook at all but it was one of the few things she knew how to do. My mom’s mom, forget it. Barely even rice. My dad’s mom could make some really good empanadas. I kind of got it from her, she would make these amazing little empanadas. She inspired me.
So how did you get into food?
I have always been interested in food. I’m like a foodie. I remember my dad would take me and my sister out to the movies and stuff, he would take us to McDonalds or Burger King and I never wanted to eat there. I haven’t eaten fast food in 18 years. I have never stepped into a Taco Bell or a Wendys. I don’t like processed foods or any of that stuff. I just never developed an interest in crap. It’s not food. It just fills up my stomach but it’s not food. I don’t like it. My meats, my lamb are from my brother’s place [Gaucho Ranch] and our cheeses are artisan and sourced locally. I never fry or sauté my vegetables. Only steam or roast, our dough is made in small batches, we use oil and sea salt for the pizzas, Italian flour, Argentinian vegan dough and make gluten free tacos. I like to keep it mindful and clean. I wanted to have a vegan option in every one of my menu stations, and as time goes by I want to add more options like sandwiches and sauces.
It’s interesting because it’s rare for a restaurant to adhere to so many people’s diets.
I have worked in restaurants long enough that I can say I want to do for my clients what I appreciate someone doing for me. Keep it clean, keep it mindful. Keep it simple but tasty. Kind of like eating at home with good ingredients and feeling like home. I don’t like commercial stuff or what everyone is doing. I want to be different. So I’m sourcing local, organic, artisanal, clean ingredients as much as I can. I’m not talking about calories. I believe the body is like a car. You put oil and it runs, but it all depends on the type of oil that you use.
How long did the process of starting Fufi Restaurant take?
Fufi Restaurant has been around for only a month, but Fufi has been around for four years. I started my catering company after working at Smith & Wollensky and Copperbox, where I would take my personal lunch which was empanadas because I love empanadas. So I would take [them] to work and be like, “chef? Do you mind if I use your oven to cook my lunch?” And the chef would OK it. So I would bake my empanadas that I made at home for myself and my family back then. And they would ask what I was baking and I would offer them some. It became this thing where the chef at Smith & Wollensky would tax me for using the oven by giving them empanadas. It was one empanada, then it was two. And then the chef wanted to me bring empanadas to his daughter’s graduation party. And I had an office job, I wasn’t cooking or anything like that but I said sure. I just charged for the ingredients; my job was not to cook. I was in the office. And a few months later at Copperbox the same thing happened there. Soon enough the chef there tells me that I should sell these. So I quit my job, started selling at farmer’s market and one thing led to another, and one client led to another and my catering business started from there.
What made you branch into pizzas?
When I decided to buy the restaurant from my friend, she was doing pizzas already. She had a pizza clientele. She told me I could keep it or I could drop it. So I figured why drop it. In Argentina, where you ate pizza you ate empanadas. And where you buy empanadas you buy pizza. It goes like garlic bread and pizza here.
I don’t think there are any more steps for me right now. I have my catering company outside the restaurant that keeps me beyond busy. Plus my restaurant, my employees, and my daughter. So I don’t think there’s another step right now. All I do is work all day and then go to my house two blocks down the street. Sleep. Wake up and continue. Am I happy? I’m beyond happy. I don’t have time to go visit breweries. I don’t have time to go to doughnut places right now. Would I like to? Eventually but right now, this needs all of my attention. And it’s been, from the moment I started this to now, getting better and better. I don’t want to break the flow. I want to be in touch with my clients. I have my servers but I want to talk to people. I want to tell them what this is about. So I think I’m going to stay here.
For more information on Fufi Empanadas and their menu, visit fufisempanadas.com.
This is a piece in our series spotlighting small businesses part of our Support Local initiative.