Restaurant La Casita de Yeya
New opening in Down Town near Congo Bongo. Soul, heart and life as the famous song of Los Panchos, that’s Yeya, an overwhelming personality, an innate charisma and always bubbling over with joy.
Some people think each of us has a defined destiny, which we do not own it, but what Yeya and her family have been shown is that they have changed the course theirs.
She has lived in many Caribbean countries for love when she followed her husband steps, the hotel industry forces you to move in frequently and my husband worked during 12 years in Sandals Resort, as Regional Director, a period in which we were very happy. The coincidence, his effort to earn money to travel and mainly his every day hard work have became what Yeya thought it was a game into a dream.
The first question is compulsory, Can you tell us about the beginning of “La casita de Yeya?
It was created 5 years ago, we were already in DR and lived in Punta Cana where my husband worked in a hotel chain. In February, he became unemployed but we had to wait for the girls to finish the school in June. At that moment I needed to make money while my husband looked for a new job because he didn’t want to spend our savings. I spend money if I earn it.
As I was interested in cooking, I started to spread the word that I was offering catering service and appetizer. First it was not true but all I wanted was to earn money. Few times later, I made a contract to sell pasties and I was doing well. By having the unconditional support of my husband we bought a selling cart, we began in Pueblo Bávaro and moved to Barceló Avenue later. It was like a chimi with hamburgers and hot dogs, but as I prefer a more wholesome food I added slice of fried green banana and parboiled for the weekend nights.
First the selling cart, then a ranch and now a little house, How have you live that change?
Actually, we could humbly pay our house but we could not travel and I wanted to travel.
Beside the selling cart, there was a hut used for a business that broke later and I thought, this is my chance, I can make money to travel with this. At that moment I already felt as a “little entrepreneur”, in fact I was and my family, that gave me full support and I rented the first Casita de Yeya which was just a simple a ranch.
What was your target customer?
We made Dominican food, the Dominican people relish their own food and people from other parts of the country could not eat the traditional food cooked by their mums. In Punta Cana, Dominicans cookless complicated and elaborate dishes like goat and sausages due to the touristic and foreign residents influence. For that reason we open la Casita de Yeya, to offer traditional Dominican food that one cooked by mums. We have done great and I thank to all people of Punta Cana, even those who are in the provinces for their support.
When did you open the second Casita de Yeya?
In May, 2014 we finished the place improvements. Two years earlier it was located in a ranch, a hut beside the little house, I bought it from a young man, even though people told me it was very expensive it was clear to me. My employees and I bought it and made some improvements in both business and recipes. It was a huge investment but when you want something you must invest to make it works. We redesigned the hut to reach a wide clientele. I started step by step but being persistent. On Saturdays a person from Higüey came to sing in karaoke and this attracted many people. The business was going well but it was not enough to make money to travel and that’s why I paid for La Casita which is an undertaking today. All this years have been an act of humility, we haven’t had neither the kitchen nor proper conditions. We can say that La Casita de Yeya, up to now has been a cheap restaurant and now we are going to open the restaurant.
Almost all Punta Cana has come to what you define as cheap restaurant?
Yes, from the richer to the more modest and they were very pleased with it. We are all beautiful in La Casita de Yeya, the poor and the rich. Here we are all the same without any distinction. Since she was little, Yeya played to cook and that was her beginning, like a game, the dream starts now when she is going to play in the “champions’ league”. She opens a new place in Down Town (Vía Martina), neither more nor less than near Coco Bongo. “Now we have a real kitchen, with modern extractors, now I’m a girl “ a wealthy one” (as my daughters say, laughter)..I say it humbly; it has been a gift from god.
How do you deal with this evolution?
It was happing without realizing it, and now I have the restaurant. I have been working very hard and my dream has come true without noticing. I don’t see the future, I’m focused in the present day which is more special than tomorrow. I’ve always been very happy, in “bad times” I was happy because I started with a selling cart, “La casita de Yeya” doesn’t make me feel happier, it just give me joy because I feel that I have managed to reach this level. Now I will climb higher but without fear, without any concern.
Who will be the customers of the new place?
It is important to know that my vision is to have more customers. On the one hand, the same customers can come, this new step can attract tourists from the hotel to make them feel a pure Dominican environment.
What’s new in the restaurant?
We will count on the Chef Tita, a well-recognized woman because she has highlighted the Dominican dishes. She has given credits and improved my recipes that are very tasty but their presentation was poor.
What dishes are you going to redo?
They will remain the same but having some improvements. The parboiled, the best sausage of the country, according to people, the same famous hot spices, all will be the same but now adding the touch of the Chef Tita who will readjust the dishes but keeping the basis and our roots: garlic, onion, oregano, sour orange and a pinch of pepper that are the main basis of La Casita de Yeya. Virtually all the products we have are natural, only one person peels garlic because I want great amount of garlic in the food. We will add some lighter dishes, more refreshing as salads.
What is the Yeya food par excellent?
All dishes are excellent. Goat, fish, lobster, shrimp are all delicious because they are made with love. People say that the best parboiled is Yeya’s and it’s a common knowledge that works so even tourists come asking for Yeya’s parboiled. The sausage here is called “Nístido” because it is a really sausage. In my village they added an s to the term and as my sausage is genuine it is called “Nístido”. Even “wealthy” people ask for the sausage “nístido”! (Laughter)
What is the secret of your cuisine?
You have to feel good, you cannot prepare a dish if you are uncomfortable. A sensation of peace must be felt in the kitchen, everybody has to be happy so the work flows, the atmosphere is really important. It has a great impact when the whole team feels that your place is theirs too and I try to make this happens in that way, we are a family.
What would you recommend to someone who has a dream or wants to make it true?
I recommend being brave and pursuing it, being devoted day by day with love and dedication. The fear makes things go wrong or worst. We are people that take risk and don’t be afraid, everything is going to be fine with all the investment made in the restaurant. But step by step, I had never had a restaurant and I have been moving forward taking baby steps until getting here.
Are your daughters very proud of their mother?
Yes, they are very proud of me. We love each other, we are like sisters even though they know that their mum deserves respect because I have a lot of personality. The youngest is in France studying culinary art, still not Chef, she is always correcting me (laughter). Nicole, the oldest, is 22 years old and is Bachelor of Arts in Tourism and wants to be specialized in marketing. She is helping me a lot with business organization at the restaurant because it is not a cheap restaurant anymore and I’m an artist. My gift is to be a happy person, that happiness that god gave me makes people love me and come to my business with affection. The youngest daughter will spend 6 months here but she must return to finish her training on Culinary Art.
La Casita de Yeya in Vía Martina (Hambre Street), ¿What will be the surprise?
There will be a wide range of desserts that would vary, but as main dessert dishes we will offer baking coconut caramel, cream caramel of coconut milk and many other surprises. Related to meal, it will be the same but improving, if you want to eat a Dominican chicken scratching, a fried fish, you don’t need to go to the beach because it is served fresh here with bright eyes. We are going to elaborate a very Dominican menu. There will be a great selection of drinks and exquisite cocktails.
Yeya dosen’t want to end this talk without mentioning her husband whom she define as the most handsome of the world, the one who supports me, keeps me company, believes in me, boost me, gives me all I want, and when he says nothing it means nothing, indeed, my husband is my sunshine, my man, my all” …She is all passion which transmits to her cuisine, her family, and all her customers that come to her house, “La Casita de Yeya.
I’m very grateful to the architect José Daniel Romero who has been the designer of architectural concept and all details since the beginning.
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