‘I am blessed in this community’ – Balham mum to launch Venezuelan street food stall

A Venezuelan mum will launch her new artisan street food stall in Balham this Saturday, the first step towards her dream of an international franchise.

Andrea Marquez-Dias, 35, of Balham, will launch The Dot at Balham StrEATS Market after years of hard work providing for her family as a care worker.

She is finally pursuing her dream of continuing the Marquez-Dias family legacy, started by her parents in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital.

“My parents had a restaurant for 35 years in Caracas. It was extremely popular food even in Venezuela,” said Andrea.

“This will now be another option for London foodies who love to try food from all over the world.”

Andrea’s parents, Maria Dias and Anibal Marquez, left their restaurant and home in Caracas because of political unrest and now work as cleaners in Wandsworth.

Andrea said: “The big dream is to take mum and dad out of cleaning and do something they know how to do, have a better quality of life, and enjoy the job they used to do all the time.”

Andrea and her husband, Walber Leon, and their two daughters, Fabiana, four, and Annabella, six, moved to London to flee political turmoil in Venezuela in 2016.

Andrea’s food dreams started many years ago, but when she moved to England, she had to prioritise providing for her children and developing her English skills.

In January this year, she met volunteers at Balham job club, who supported her to complete the paperwork she needed to start a business.

POPULAR: Andrea is bringing Venezuelan street food to Balham.

Andrea said: “English is not my mother tongue, they helped me to overcome the main barrier to develop my project.

“I am so blessed to find a community who help just because they want to love others.”

In the same month, Maria Fernanda Fornerino, 29, moved to Tooting with her husband, Juan Carlos Braschi, and is now employed as a hotel maintenance assistant.

Juan Carlos was Andrea’s post-graduate lecturer for marketing and business in Venezuela and the families re-connected over social media in the UK.

Andrea quickly discovered Maria’s cooking skills and they became business partners.

Andrea developed The Dot’s website and social media with skills gained from her degree, and extra language support from the job club.

She said: “When you don’t know the language you can only do cleaning work at first, but in the UK there are so many opportunities and people who want to help you.

“I want to show other migrants like me that it is possible to still follow your dream.”

The Dot will serve corn-milled empanadas, a Venezuelan filled pastry, and arepas, bun-like patties made of cornflour.

With gluten-free dough and fillings including avocado, chicken, halloumi, sustainably-sourced fish, and more, the Dot is ticking all the foodie boxes.

The Dot launches this Saturday, from 12-6pm at Balham StrEATS Market on Bedford Hill Place and the first Saturday of every month thereafter.

More information can be found on the website.

Image credits: Rubén Dario Marquez @dariofilmsmaker

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