Like a number of others in the Queens Chef Project circle, Irma Vargas didn't grow up in a cooking family at all. She came to New York from El Salvador at the age of 10.
In a fundraising campaign to find a new home for their Jackson Heights church (Light Of The World), Irma and her mother made and sold pupusas outside the venue every Saturday. Irma didn't know how to make them, but her mother did.
The lines went around the block, sometimes lasting as long as an hour. The customers kept urging her to open her own place where they could go during the week. The restaurant business was a totally foreign idea to her. But her family and pastor urged her to go for it.
WATCH HOW PUPUSAS ARE MADE
COAT OF ARMS
This was handed to me by my aunt. It belonged to my cousin. He passed away in 2012. He was 25 when he died, in an accident with a train in the Bronx.
When I started my restaurant, my aunt said, "Here, you should have this, and put it in your restaurant" as a memory of my cousin.
He originally brought it from El Salvador. It is made of wood.
Everything in it has meaning. Our country was established in December, 1821. This means victory and the three bodies of government [the triangle].
"Dios. Union. Libertao." God. Union, and Liberty.
[pointing to different symbols] These are Central American flags... these are the oceans that go through El Salvador.
It is a memory of my country, where I came from, and my cousin. The last time I was there was 1998. My younger daughters have never been to El Salvador.