little bites of heaven

From the moment you taste one of Chef Guisell Osorio's alfajores (delicate round butter cookies filled with creamy dulce de leche caramel and dusted in white powdered sugar), you know there's something special about her cooking.

"I started cooking out of my love for my grandmother's food," says Osorio, a native of Santiago, Chile, who moved to Walnut Creek at the age of 17. “My grandmother wasn't the type to give you hugs, but she was the type to give you food."

Osorio's grandmother's edible treats included tender empanadas (savory turnovers stuffed with ground beef, cheese or vegetables seasoned with olive, raisins, and onions), which are now among the signature offerings from Sabores del Sur, the catering company Osorio started in 2002 after years of working as a social worker.

"I started making empanadas for friends," says Osorio. "I would make the alfajores for birthday parties. Little by little, it grew until people said I should start a business.” Osorio hasn't gone to culinary school, but she worked as a volunteer chef with Denise Vickers at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, and with Patricia Gutierrez at the Walnut Creek Baking Company.

With the help of La Cocina, a San Francisco-based organization for female food business entrepreneurs, Osorio established Sabores del Sur's full catering menu, which includes a variety of delectable dishes from salads, stuffed tomatoes and homemade hummus to pastel de choclo (South American Shepherd’s Pie), anticuchos (skewered meats and seafood), and an assortment of Chilean desserts.

Osorio's casual yet flavorful repertoire has earned her a loyal clientele. Several Contra Costa cafés have standing orders for her alfajores, and customers at San Francisco's Alemany Farmers’ Market have to pre-order her empanadas if they want to be sure of getting them before her stock runs out. "I make a Chilean meringue cake with lucuma, a tropical Peruvian fruit" says Osorio, "and people drive from Sacramento to pick it up." Luckily, if you live anywhere in the East Bay, Osorio will deliver to your doorstep.

To order, call (510) 406-4980 or email Chef Guisell at chef@saboresdelsursf.com.