Editor’s note: The following story was originally published by KCUR, Kansas City’s NPR member station, and a fellow member of the KC Media Collective. Click here to read the original story or here to sign up for KCUR’s email newsletter.
Yoli Tortilleria, a Mexican tortilla bakery with a retail store on Jefferson Street on Kansas City’s Westside and a manufacturing location on Bell Street, won the 2023 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bakery — one of the most prestigious honors in the American food industry.
The Westside tortilla bakery beat out two bakeshops in North Texas, an Italian bakery in New Orleans and a Miami bread maker.
Owner Marissa Gencarelli said in her acceptance speech Monday that the tortilleria opened when she was still grieving the loss of her parents.
“Baking became our therapy, a way to connect and honor my ancestors in the middle of North America,” she said. “Thank you for the opportunity, and thank you for helping us honor the very humble tortilla.”
Gencarelli offered “gracias totales” to the James Beard Foundation, bakery employees, family and “Our city, Kansas City — without you, we would not be here.”
Last year, Yoli and its owners — Marissa and Mark Gencarelli — made it to the semifinals in the Outstanding Baker category, making history as the first tortilla bakery nominated for any James Beard Award.
When she spoke to KCUR in March about the bakery’s nomination as one of five finalists, Gencarelli said she was honored that her small business was recognized.
“I have a little kid and I always read ‘The Little Engine That Could,’ and we always feel like the little Mexican engine that could,” she said. “So, you know, it’s always going forward and just working as hard as we can.”
Yoli Tortilleria beat out Angelo Brocato Ice Cream & Confectionery in New Orleans, La Casita Bakeshop in Richardson, Texas, Kuluntu Bakery in Dallas, and Zak the Baker in Miami to take home the honor.
Click here to read more about Yoli Tortilleria from Startland News.