1960. Cuba. Political turmoil in your country and you attempt to leave. Straightaway, your husband gets terminated and consigned away to manual labor. You, too, get terminated with three children to feed. Can you imagine? That was the crisis Rosa Porto found herself in.
In Chinese, the word “crisis’ is represented by the characters for danger and opportunity in one.
In the bible, Genesis 50:20a also tells us that even though a certain situation arises from people’s ill intentions, God can use it for our good. Such was the case with Rosa Porto.
Financial need and dire circumstances brought forth an entrepreneurial opPORTOnity as her talent in baking came to the fore. Rosa supported her family by getting serious about baking and selling her cakes to friends and neighbors as she continued to perfect her recipes.
When the time finally came to leave Manzanillo, Cuba with her husband, Raul Sr., their children, Betty, Raul Jr. and Margarita to immigrate to California, they barely had more than the clothes they wore, Raul Sr.’s work ethic, and Rosa’s baking talents. But as soon as they arrived in their new homeland, they discovered that Rosa’s cake customers from Cuba had already shared the news of her delicious cakes with their family and friends in California who became her first customers.
Raul Sr. worked as a mechanic and delivered the cakes after work. Soon, the demand for Rosa’s cakes outgrew their home so they opened a 300-square foot bakery on Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. Raul Sr. who by then had two jobs, quit those jobs to help Rosa full time. Their children, while in school, learned different parts of the business and after graduating from college, Raul Jr. managed finances and together with his longtime colleague, Tony Salazar, worked on new product development, production improvements, and quality control. Margarita helped in cake decorating while Betty and Raul Sr. took care of Customer Service.
Over the years, they added to their product line French mousses and international savory foods. In the 1990’s, they moved to a 20,000 square foot facility and later opened a cafe serving Cuban sandwiches and comfort food. Today, Porto’s Bakery & Cafe now has four huge stores in Glendale, Burbank, Downey, and Buena Park.
Rosa Porto is now retired but her recipes and motto remain alive in the bakery business that blossomed as a result of crisis.
“Quality is the number one ingredient in everything we do. – Rosa Porto”.
We got introduced to Porto’s through my cousin-in-law, Lesley (also a baking enthusiast like myself), who has for years brought their stunning cakes to family celebrations like during the wedding anniversary of Uncle Tiffy and Auntie Lilly:
She told us of the recent opening of the Buena Park branch so on a Sunday when we thought there would not be the promised long queue, the beloved and I went to see their cakes and coffee. Oh, there was still a long queue. It’s a very lively, pleasant place with lots of beautiful cakes to see, lots of enticing food aromas to smell, and sights and sounds of bakers and cake decorators in various stages of work to admire while waiting for your turn.
Here is my server trying to recall my lengthy order (almost one of each) without writing it down. Good thing I saw she forgot the Tiramisu so she was able to put it in the box.
We brought these for Mom and Bob and among those that I was able to get pinches of taste from, all were delicious. Mom said they were ALL very good!!! I would come to Porto’s again and again. Knowing its history makes me appreciate it even more!