Clarification: Since the publication of this article, which mentions on-campus businesses, the Daily became aware that the university does not permit the operation of on-campus businesses under its regulations. The headline of this article has been updated.
Starting an on-campus business is a simultaneously daunting and appealing undertaking. The constant demand that could be created by a large student body has tremendous promise, but complications arise when considering supply. How does one, in their dorm or suite, supply enough products to create a sustainable business?
Roy Hidalgo, a sophomore, has gone through this thought process in the last few weeks as he created an on-campus business: “Roy’s Pastelitos.” What exactly is this Latin American staple? Hidalgo described pastelitos as a “Dominican Hot Pocket,” resembling fried empanadas. Pastelitos are the perfect snack or meal — one can eat them alone or accompanied with anything. Although Hidalgo did not seem too keen on eating pastelitos for breakfast, he recommended that if one desired to do so, the salami pastelitos would be best. Otherwise, a serving of two to three pastelitos could be a sufficient lunch or dinner.
Empanadas hold great significance in Latin American culture. Hidalgo explained how each Caribbean island has its own variation of the empanada.
“For Dominicans it's about the pastelito … In Jamaica, it's the beef patty,” Hidalgo said. “In the Dominican Republic you could find pastelitos anywhere … There’s food trucks that literally make them out of anything.”
I don’t want to make a basic overarching statement, but being Argentinean myself, I feel comfortable making the arguable claim that the empanada is not simply meat enveloped in bread. Empanadas are a standing symbol for the inner workings and intricacies of culture itself. As Hidalgo highlighted, each Latin American country has its own version that is shaped by its diverse array of customs.
Empanadas are not restricted to street food or restaurant appetizers — they are a household staple. Hidalgo’s aunt had a bodega where she would sell pastelitos. This is where his love for them grew.
“I’ve been around pastelitos for a very long time,” he said. “My mom taught me how to make them.”
If you are wondering, whether you want to try out making pastelitos, Hidalgo encouragingly said, “It's not too hard. You just learn from watching people do it.”
As implied by the name, “Roy’s Pastelitos” is a pastelito-selling business on campus. Hidalgo’s idea consists of taking orders throughout the week and doing deliveries only on Saturdays. The pastelito menu lists five different fillings (cheese, chicken, beef, Dominican salami and Dominican salami with cheese) that come in regular or large sizes. You can also purchase bundles of three for a discounted price. To order, you can contact Hidalgo through phone, Snapchat or Instagram.
Hidalgo was first inspired to start his business due to a combination of factors: He has a limited meal plan, lives in a suite with a kitchen and needed some extra money. Hidalgo described how pastelitos are “one of the quick and filling things that I know how to make and I’ve seen made throughout my whole life being Dominican ... I miss pastelitos.”
Hidalgo said at the start of the semester he wanted to teach his girlfriend how to make them. They made around 20 and then shared them with his suite mates. Consequently, Hidalgo said all those tasting the infamous pastelitos shared the same opinion: “Oh my god,” his suite mates said, “these are really good.” Hidalgo then considered his eating situation in combination with the fact that he needed some money and concluded “this could be something I can do … And so it started.”
From prepping and cooking to packaging and delivering, Hidalgo runs the whole business in his suite. Hidalgo did not find it hard to produce food in such large quantities in a dorm room kitchen. He said he could easily find all the ingredients in nearby markets and considered the most challenging part of the process to be organizing his time so that the business would not take away from his school work.
After the first time Hidalgo made them, he realized the process took much more time than he thought, so he would have to spread out the work. He now dedicates one day to cooking all the meat, the next day he preps the pastelitos and on the Saturday of delivery he fries them so that they can be hot and fresh.
Hidalgo said he’s satisfied with how the business aspect of the enterprise is going.
“I made a decent amount of profits,” he said. “I made what I was looking for … I didn't need this to be a big booming thing.”
For Hidalgo, it was all about bringing joy to those around him.
I have indeed tried the famous pastelitos. I ordered some on a Friday and picked them up outside Hidalgo’s dorm on a Saturday. He handed them to me, delicately wrapped and warm. Back in my dorm, I eagerly took a bite, and for a split second, wondered whether these pastelitos beat my home country Argentina’s empanadas. There is a strong rivalry between countries regarding whose empanadas are superior. Due to my own patriotic pride I will not disclaim my final rankings of such, but I will admit that biting into Hidalgo’s pastelitos made me feel at home.