Maria Cano and Auria Abraham: Creating a Legacy for the Next Generation

Auria Abraham and Maria Cano - Photo by Lily Chin,

Auria Abraham and Maria Cano; photo by Lily Chin,

This summer Maria Cano (aka, the Arepa Lady) moved her thriving Colombian street food business into a storefront in Queens, NY, her first brick-and-mortar restaurant. For Cano, 70, it was a measure of hard-won success after selling arepas (cornmeal “pancakes”) from a street cart for more than two decades.

For Auria Abraham, 45, success has come more quickly — she launched her Malaysian sambal business last summer, after working as a jingle producer in the advertising industry for more than a decade. Her unapologetically spicy condiment is already on store shelves throughout New York City, and plans for new products are in the works.

Speaking through a translator, the two women note the importance of using their food businesses to create a legacy — both cultural and financial — for their children.

“It’s been a lot of hard work but it feels very good,” Cano tells Abraham. “The thing that feels the best is to have my kids involved and see them accomplish so much. They picked up the flag and they’re carrying my business.”

Listen to more in this series Zarela Martinez and Kavitha Rathi: Redefining Regional Cuisine

See what happens when you bring together women food entrepreneurs from different generations and different ethnic backgrounds to talk about food, business, and flavor.

Audio produced by Miranda Shafer. Translation by Natalia Perlaza. Photos by Lily Chin.

Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, and the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation.

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AboutAnne Noyes Saini
Anne Noyes Saini, Food Editor, produces WNYC's The Sporkful food podcast and is co-creator of the MOTHER podcast. She covers food culture, immigration, women, and the elderly in New York City — especially in Queens, where she lives. She has contributed to NPR The Salt, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Narratively, Serious Eats, VICE, Feet in 2 Worlds, Real Cheap Eats and City Limits magazine.