A veteran of the food, beverage and hospitality industries, Coty Rastafar knows first-hand the market for easy — and delicious — grab-and-go food options for the late-night crowd.
That’s why a few years back, as the general manager of a Pittsburgh nightclub, Coty reached into her past to find the perfect option for hungry customers heading home after a fun night out: empanadas.
Since that time, thanks to her partnership with Market Wagon, Coty has evolved her passion for this versatile treat into an exciting business venture — All Things Empanada.
“Each week, I’m growing just a little bit,” Coty said. “Six, seven months into it, it’s exciting to see where I can go from here.”
All Things Empanada utilizes a homemade approach with locally-sourced products and fresh ingredients. Coty fills a flour dough with a choice of savory meats and veggies, desserts and even breakfast options.
Her recipes, Coty boasts, are “nothing you’d find online.”
Coty’s no-hassle, easy-bake empanadas — which are made fresh weekly and then frozen to preserve their freshness — make them ideal for family dinners, holiday parties, football tailgates, birthday gatherings, and much more. She also offers multiple vegan options, including several plant-based empanadas as well as a delicious Mediterranean Chickpea Salad.
Over the last year or so, Coty has taken the necessary steps to develop All Things Empanada from the ground up, acquiring needed food permits, renting out a kitchen facility, finding success at festivals and, of course, getting connected with Market Wagon, thanks to a friend’s suggestion.
“This has really showed me that there’s a demand for certain foods here in Pittsburgh, which is nice,” Coty said. “What I’ve enjoyed about Market Wagon is the support of local farms and vendors like myself to help us get our product out there and get that critical feedback from customers.”
Market Wagon’s innovative approaches to fulfillment and logistics have also introduced Coty’s products to a much larger customer base.
“It’s not easy for somebody that’s starting a business completely from the ground up to be able to deliver 50 or 60 people a week right now,” she said. “So, Market Wagon has helped with that very much. And also the fact that Market Wagon delivers within a 100-mile radius from Pittsburgh, it allows people to try something that they’ve never had before.
“I’ve had quite a few customers that have messaged me to say, ‘I’ve never quite had anything like this. This is really nice,’ or, ‘My kids love it. We just throw it in the oven and it’s so easy to bake.’”
Born in Pittsburgh, Coty moved to Florida at the age of 16, where she was exposed to all sorts of Latin cultures and cuisines. She quickly developed a love for empanadas — “they all make them different,” Coty said — and after living in the Sunshine State for about 10 years, she never forgot about those savory, crescent-shaped pastries.
Coty moved back to Pittsburgh and started a job as a general manager at a nightclub, where she hosted several Latin-themed events that brought in all sorts of folks from countries like Columbia and Venezuela. Coty — herself of Persian, Armenian and Italian heritage — found the clubs didn’t have much to offer in the way of food, so she took matters into her own hands.
“Coming from the nightclub at 6, 7 in the morning, you’re hungry and you want something fast,” she said. “So, I started making the empanadas here and there, because it was something that I could do in the kitchen while I was there, and it was something I always loved and wanted to do.”
Coty eventually transitioned into a career in the hospitality industry, but she never lost sight of her passion for cooking, drawing inspiration from her Aunt Lori, and her cousin Armon, who owns an empanada factory in Panama.
As she continues to find ways to grow All Things Empanada, Coty has a few words of advice for those also considering partnering with Market Wagon.
“The advice I would give is just keep going after your dream,” she said. “Marketing is a big thing to take on when you’re working from the ground up, so the fact that Market Wagon has the Fresh Feed, it has the vendor profiles, you can easily post pictures of your products — they make it very easy to showcase, sell and deliver your products to your customers.”
When it comes to the products offered on Market Wagon, Coty (pictured below with her aunt) says the most popular offering is the beef empanada. But her personal favorite is the breakfast empanada which is filled with egg, turkey bacon and cheddar cheese.