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Victoria Sponge Cake from Jezabel's Studio. Photo: Eli Siegel
Victoria Sponge Cake from Jezabel's Studio. Photo: Eli Siegel

Jezabel Careaga: a Renaissance woman who cooks, teaches, and reshapes interior design with her own two hands

It’s only been a few months since Argentine chef and entrepreneur Jezabel Careaga moved her center of operations from Fitler Square to West Philadelphia, but…

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“I’m very happy,” explained Careaga. “It’s bittersweet to leave Fitler Square, but I’m happy to be in the West Philly community that has given us an amazing response.”

Jezabel’s Studio initially opened in the West Philly location over a year ago teaching customers about sustainability as well as how to cook healthy practical meals that would make a difference in their lives. Now, the West Philly location has expanded to include her cafe (formally in Fitler Square), where she serves up her delicious cooking.

“I want to push the envelope,” said Careaga. “Here I can change my menu and have more room to be creative.”

Everything counts

Among her more innovative new ideas are items, like the banana cake, that seek to reuse every part of an ingredient. The banana cake is topped with a special glaze made from the part of the beet that remains after being squeezed for juice. Likewise, the apple cake is made with the egg whites that are leftover after using the yolks for the alfajores.

“The idea came from #wastenotwednesday from the James Beard Foundation,” explained Careaga. “The goal is how to use every component of a single ingredient so there’s no waste.”

Other delicious items on offer at the cafe include a victoria sponge cake laced with oranges. Coming soon, Careaga plans to add dulce de leche, chantilly and peach to the cake. She’ll swap peaches for strawberries once strawberry season arrives.

If you are interested in learning how to make dishes like these, Jezabel’s offers a variety of special cooking classes. They hosted one on National Empanada day on April 8, and are planning another for Mother’s Day.

On the third Friday of every month they offer an event called “If my grandma were to cook for you,” where a guest chef from the Hispanic community cooks the group a fixed price meal. Most recently, the series featured Christina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa. The next couple of months will showcase chefs from Honduras and Spain.

“We wanted to bring to the forefront the diversity within the Hispanic community,” said Careaga.

Improvisation is always the best style

Even though she’s a master in the kitchen, Careaga also is passionate about furniture and interior design. A drive initially fueled by the realization that she did not want to pay a ton of money for designer style furniture.

“I had moved to an empty home with no furniture,” said Careaga. “I went to some stores in DC, but I could not spend that kind of money. I thought where could I get them?”

All of the furniture inside the cafe is built by Careaga herself, but going forward she wants to offer these ‘urban industrial style’ items to customers. To that end, she plans to open up Jezabel’s Atelier in the early summer.

“These are items for city dwellers,” said Careaga. “They are reusable pieces made with rough edges of the city like metal and wood.”

The furniture on offer is broken down into three categories: Crespon, which are simple, functional and raw pieces fabricated with raw steel, highlighting the natural beauty of the wood; Dahlia, which are modern, bright and warm pieces fabricated with raw steel, finished with powder coating, wood finished in the golden color scheme; and Hortensia, which consist of elegant, timeless and bold pieces fabricated with stainless steel and local dark walnut highlighting the natural beauty of the wood.

For more information about Jezabel’s businesses, check out her website jezabelsstudio.com. Address: 208 S. 45th Street. Philadelphia, PA 19104. Hours: Monday - Sunday 8:00AM - 7:00PM. Prices: $3 - $12.

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