Getting to Know You: Andrea Olivo and Andrea Figueira, founders of Pacheco Venezuelan Street Food
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Andrea Olivo and Andrea Figueria are graphic designers (and cooks!) who met while at university in Caracas, Venezuela, and founded Pacheco in Dublin and now famed for their arepas. Check them out on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @pachecovsf.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your families.
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. I grew up in Caracas but my family had a farm, so I spent most of my school holidays there and also by the coast, especially in my teens.
My parents emigrated with their families on a ship to Venezuela from Madeira Island, Portugal and Avelino, Italy back in the 1960’s when the economy and the country was positively growing.
I come from a big family. Most of my Mom’s family members stayed in Venezuela including my grandparents who had a farm so we used to spend a lot of time together.
Cooking was always the main activity back then. I’ve been very much influenced by Italian and Portuguese cuisine. My grandmother was Italian and one of the best cooks I’ve ever known, as well as my mom and aunties. I remember they used to team up and cook big amounts of food to feed the whole family. We had an outdoor table under a mango tree large enough to fit us all. They used to make huge batches of their own homemade tomato sauce, pasta, sausages, and ricotta cheese.
We used to spend Christmas there too. I remember the whole family involved in making Hallacas (a traditional Venezuelan Christmas dish of stewed meat with olives and raisins stuffed in a cornmeal dough and tied in a plantain leaf). All the kids were in charge of tying them up, while the adults were in charge of cooking the stew, kneading the dough, and wrapping them. We had them for the Christmas dinner and we shared the rest amongst ourselves. They take so much work that we used to make about five hundred at a time.
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela near the beautiful mountain that surrounds the city called "El Avila."When I was two years old, my parents moved to the coast where I grew up. I have so many beautiful memories growing up by the Caribbean sea. My mum always said I learned to swim before I learned to walk.
My parents were always very active, cycling to the mountains, swimming, going to the gym, camping with the grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunties, fishing for our food for the week. Learning the art of fishing and camping are some of the most beautiful memories I keep close to my heart. Late night swims with plankton and waking up to the sound of water and sand on your feet. Everything was so much fun when we went camping together, running half naked on the beach with my sister and wearing the most intense and natural tan. When living in Ireland, I lost my tan! I never knew my skin was this white!
My grandmother on my mother's side was from Zaragoza, Spain and my dad's mum was from Venezuela so the menu in my home was very diverse. I always remember Tortilla española as one of the best things; I learned how to make it with her. Hallacas was a big deal at my dad's mum's house, making hundreds of them every year so we could all take some for the season. My mum, my sister and I always fought for that last piece of fried delish sweet plantain on the table and it was always very funny.
Another one of my favourite meals is my sister's classic and famous Toddy, chocolate milk shake made with Venezuelan Toddy and Cheez Whiz (Venezuelan melted cheese) plus scrambled eggs for breakfast.
How did you come to Ireland?
I came to Ireland in 2015. I was looking for a change and also to learn English. The social and economic situation was not good in Venezuela at the time, so coming here was an opportunity to grow, get a better quality of life and have a break from all the madness back home.
My friend and business partner, Andrea Olivo had been living in Ireland since 2010. We had met more than 16 years ago while studying Graphic Design together in Caracas. I remember emailing her that I was looking for options to learn English in Trinidad and Tobago and/or the UK, and she was like: “Come to Ireland! I’ll help you out!”
I’ve been in Ireland for nine years now, and I must say I love it.
I moved back to Caracas to study graphic design, where I met my business partner and cosmic sister Andrea F. and was able to come back to the coast to visit my parents some weekends.
After graduating from graphic design, I started working in the city and ended up working with an Argentinian wine importing company where I learned a lot about wine from Mendoza and was able to sell and organise wine tasting classes. I was able to combine my graphic design with the marketing department and enjoy the passion for food and wine I knew I had. Meeting all the great wine creators from Argentina was a highlight when organising SIG (Salon Internacional de Gastronomía) in Venezuela.
Unfortunately I had a very bad experience with the insecurity in the city. My car was stolen from me, in an unforgettable event that changed me in the sense where I did not feel safe in the city anymore. Finding it hard to get to my job without a car exposed me even more to the insecurity. I decided to sell everything I had, including my bed and take a flight to Europe.
That is when I came to Ireland. Originally I had wanted to go to Spain where some of my family members were living, but some friends from my Design School were here in Dublin at the time and decided it was a good opportunity to improve my English. And there I had three months to meet people and make a decision on where to go next. I was enjoying the massive difference in cultures and weather; so after three months as a tourist I decided to study English and signed up to a school.
Since Ireland was going through a big recession and finding a job in my area was impossible, I was lucky to work in the hospitality sector for almost four years. This job gave me the opportunity to get to know Ireland as a tourist and meet people from all over the world.
After that I took a big break and that is where I started thinking about creating Pacheco Venezuelan Street Food.
Here I am, after almost thirteen years in Ireland, my home!
Do you cook? Who are the best and the worst cooks in your life?
I cook and I enjoy it! I learned by looking at my mom cooking, who had learned from my grandmother. They are the best cooks I’ve ever known and also my auntie Rosa. I’d say my dad isn’t very talented in the kitchen!
I do cook and enjoy it A LOT! I do not consider myself a chef or the best cook, but I have fun in the process of making something, especially something challenging like "leftovers day"; making something tasty with whatever is about to go off in your fridge. I don't like waste and try to eat everything I buy before it expires.
I don't remember exactly when I learned to cook, I remember being curious of what was happening in the kitchen and asking my nana and mum if I could help. So I slowly learned while being an assistant in the kitchen. Also I had the privilege of living with my grandparents on my mum's side for a few years and there I learned so much.
Spanish, Italian and Venezuelan cuisine were the most common cooking. Every Sunday barbecue with my aunties’ friends and family on the terrace; beer, rum and laughs!
Best cooks? All the main ladies in my life are the best cooks I know, my mum, my grandmothers, my granddad on my mum's side, my aunties. Also my uncle Luis. A French friend I met here in Europe, she can make something simple taste like heaven. So many! I cannot name them all!
Worst cooks? I don't believe there are bad cooks, only lazy ones. Cooking can be simple. All you need is the intention of making it happen and if you follow a recipe and/or learn a few things it is really hard that it goes the wrong way.
What is your favourite dish, and your favourite food memory?
It’s hard to choose but I’d say Parmigiana di Melanzane. I think it’s one of my favourite dishes because it takes me back to my childhood.
At present I have been obsessed with soups, so any warm and tasty soup I can eat for breakfast makes me very happy. I do have favourite ingredients and these are plantains, avocado, broccoli, sprouts.
Favourite food memory? I think it is my mum's "filled cheese ball" (Queso de bola relleno), which is a Gouda ball-shaped shell filled with chicken with olives and veggies baked until golden brown. And her deviled chicken (Pollo endiablado) chicken seasoned with "Diablitos" (Venezuelan famous canned ham), veggies and topped
with breadcrumbs! Her Pastel de jojoto (sweet corn cake). These were things I always looked forward to eating when arriving back from school.
What is your most traumatising food experience?
When I was a kid, one of my aunties baked some traditional cookies from Portugal called Broas de Mel. I had so many of them that I got badly sick in my stomach.
I was tricked into eating a "chicken pie dish," and then my family told me I had "Tortoise pie." I nearly died since I would have never eaten one of them.
Where do you shop? Is there something crave that you cannot get here?
I usually get my weekly shop between Lidl and Aldi. I also get specific ingredients and/or spices in Asian shops like Kwality foods, Oriental emporium, Noor Madina, Veg-Ex. I also love delicatessen shops but they’re usually very expensive so I spend more time looking/dreaming than buying.
I do miss the flavour of fruits in general. Back home, fruits are very tasty so I’m still missing that. Also the different types of white cheese from back home.
I shop anywhere that is convenient for me to get my ingredients. It can be Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Dunnes, farmers markets, or the Asian and African shops. Noor Madina, Kwality Foods, Veg-Ex, Oriental Emporium, etc.
I really crave good quality ingredients, for example avocados, plantains, bananas, onions, tomatoes. I think some of them lack taste in Ireland because of all the traveling it takes to make it here. Having a Venezuelan avocado and plantain tastes like heaven. Venezuelan cheese I miss and Passion Fruit (Parchita) is one the things I miss the most. I MISS FRESH PASSION FRUIT JUICE!
Sometimes I long for this fried fish from home called Catalana (pink skin fish), served by the sea freshly caught accompanied with coleslaw and tostones (fried plantains). Mmm!
Are you excited about the cuisines of other cultures, and if so, which ones? Are there ingredients/dishes that you have disliked? If so, have you come around to liking them?
I’m very much excited about food in general, too much sometimes! I love trying different dishes from other cultures and I’m always curious about what ingredients they use or the history behind. I love when you get a explosion of flavours on your mouth that you feel like you need to close your eyes and dance a bit to eat. I also love having a lot of colours on my plate. I get very excited about Indian, Italian, and East Asian cuisines, I also love healthy, earthy food. Hit me with all the veggies and I’ll be more than happy.
I remember my mom used to make liver with onions and I didn’t like it at all. I’m sure I won’t like it now.
One of the things I enjoy when traveling is trying the food and getting to know the culture through it. If you want to mix with the locals I find that food is always a good and easy way to do it.
I love Indian cuisine and only have gotten to know it in Ireland so I really would love to travel to India and get to taste the real thing. Arab cuisine has always been a big deal in my hometown due to the large Arab community there, so we are big on those restaurants back home and have had the best of the best, and I hold it close to my childhood memories too. Italian food always and we all know why!
So many cuisines! All I can say is "Thanks Planet Earth for all the food"!
I have never been a fan of mussels. Growing up by the coast I did try to engage many times with them and never liked them. I guess that mussels are the food that I really would not look forward to eating.