La Dorita Cooks serves up tasty products, helping start-ups -

La Dorita Cooks serves up tasty products, helping start-ups

Friday, December 27, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Josephine Caminos Oría has many sweet ideas. Her La Dorita business, which makes dulce de leche, is the starter course that became La Dorita Cooks, Pittsburgh’s first, shared incubator-kitchen.

Besides making its own product, the Sharpsburg company offers other food businesses the use of four kitchens and spaces that meet the stringent standards set by the Allegheny County Department of Health.

Located in the old Etna Elks building, La Dorita Cooks has 17 businesses in various kitchen areas. And the space was recently expanded by another 4,000 square feet.

Looking at some of the 17 members gives a taste of what’s on La Dorita Cooks’ menu.

Dinners by Heather uses the kitchen to make easy meals. She’ll deliver a special liner-filled seasoned meat, potatoes, and vegetables meal that is ready to be popped into a slow cooker.

The incubator hosts a number of food trucks such as two pizza purveyors. While these trucks often have ovens and other kitchen appliances, they need health department-certified prep areas.

Jasmine Cho won Food Network’s holiday cookie bake-off recently. Her business, Yummyholic, is an online store delivering specialty cookies and wedding cakes. Her website states she is looking for a business home.

Since 2012, the kitchens have had 41 members. Many have since moved on into their own spaces.

“They leave here with knowledge that’s not easy to get,” Gastón Oría says. “The support we have is insane.”

Not only do the La Doritas owners share their space and knowledge, the many member cooks help each other.

“We have a community of like-minded people,” Josephine says. “They’re very supportive.”

The walk-in refrigerator and freezer — and a business center for meetings with vendors and customers — are the meat and potatoes of the incubator kitchen.

In 2009, Josephine was a successful CFO of a health-related company. With four young sons, she was a busy career woman and mother. However, she spent evenings in the kitchen perfecting her grandmother’s recipe for dulce de leche.

Her recipe is four “clean” ingredients of unpasteurized (raw) milk, sugar, vanilla beans and sodium bicarbonate. Dulce de leche, not caramelized sugar, is a cultural staple of Argentina, Josephine’s home until the age of 1, and Gastón’s until 2000. A common use for the product, which has less sugar than most jellies, is on morning toast. South Americans use dulce de leche like northerners use peanut butter.

She has even penned a cookbook. Her “Dulce de Leche: Recipes, Stories, & Sweet Traditions” gives ideas using the dulce de leche from breakfast to dinner. The book is chock of with memories.

The female entrepreneur says it was difficult to leave her career, but she knew she would always regret it if she didn’t. She named her business in honor of her grandmother, Maria Dora, and turned her home into a professional kitchen.

Moving the business out to a commissary kitchen let the business “grow” organically.

“We tapped into a need in the community,” she says of the complex.

Now parents of five, the Orías have plans for future production and distribution.

La Dorita’s dulce de leche is available at Giant Eagle’s Market District.