A Passion for Flavor
Tonia Chapple grew up in a multigenerational home where she discovered and nurtured her love of cooking. As a native of San Francisco— known for its diversity of culinary influences—Tonia was exposed to a variety of different cultural cuisines. She channeled her Cuban and Creole heritage through her cooking to create flavor profiles and dishes that would be in high demand at family gatherings— always cooking to music, or as Tonia would say, “cooking with rhythm.” However, it was an enchiladas recipe belonging to a neighboring Mexican family that set Tonia off on a mission to recreate the harmony of flavors her neighbors had mastered, and ultimately serve as the inspiration for the Sweet Vine Cuban Sauce that we know today.
The neighbors’ enchiladas became one of Tonia’s favorites and she was determined to try and recreate the dish. She began with using store-bought enchilada sauce but the results were always the same— disappointing. This inspired her to create her own enchilada recipe by combining the Creole-influenced tomato sauces from her mother’s side of the family with the Cuban sofrito and Caribbean spice combinations that she picked up from her father as the base. The results would lead Tonia’s enchiladas to become the must-have dish at her family get-togethers, prompting family members and friends to encourage Tonia to bottle and sell her sauce.
Nutrition for All
It would be a few years until the family-favorite sauce would go to market but as Tonia continued her college education, she took a keen interest in learning about nutrition and the importance of using healthy, well-rounded ingredients. This would be reflected in her own cooking, as she made dishes that were not only delicious, but nutritionally balanced, too. Her awareness of the importance of nutrition would again come to the forefront for Tonia as she embarked on her career in public education.
Working in the school system, she noticed that students loved the food offerings, but they were, by and large, devoid of much nutritional value. She became an advocate for nutritionally wholesome foods in the schools and saw the need to create healthy options that kids would love and would want to eat. A sauce that was versatile, easy, nutritional, and, most importantly, delicious, might be just the solution. Tonia eventually did bring her sauce to market, bearing the nickname that a hotel doorman bestowed on her during a pilgrimage to Cuba: Tonita.