Estrellita's Snacks is a Salvadoran food company specializing in Pupusas, Tamales, and Tostadas. The company was born in San Francisco's Mission District — where Maria del Carmen began selling her freshly fried plantain and yucca chips to local business owners and families that missed the taste and crunch of tostadas from El Salvador. Estrellita's Snacks is available for catering all sizes and types of events. To "meet" Maria and see some of the delicious food she sells at Alemany Market.

Maria was raised in El Salvador and started selling food — tostadas, pupusas, fresh fruit with chili and salt — alongside her mother when she was six years old. She says this food is in her blood. Over the next 30 years she lived all over Central America, mastering the local cuisine in El Salvador, Guatemala and Oaxaca, Mexico and selling snacks on the street to make a living.

When Maria arrived in San Francisco, she continued to do what she'd always done best — making pupusas, tostadas, tamales and aguas frescas — and selling them to passersby. Only this time, the $20 she used to purchase the plantains, oil and salt for her tostadas turned into $300 in her pocket. Soon thereafter, Estrellita's Snacks was born.

Maria has been producing her food in the La Cocina kitchen since 2005, with the help of her children and her children's children. The company name is derived from Estrella, which means star in Spanish and is also the name of her daughter and granddaughter. It works quite well because her snacks taste like handfuls of heaven, as if they were plucked from the stars above. Of course, Maria is a star in her own right and she has stars on her front teeth to prove it. ★

About La Cocina

La Cocina is a ground-breaking business incubator designed to reduce the obstacles that often prevent entrepreneurs from creating successful and sustainable small businesses. By providing shared resources and an array of industry-specific services, business incubators ensure small businesses can succeed. La Cocina follows this model by providing commercial kitchen space and technical assistance focusing on low-income women and immigrant entrepreneurs who are launching, growing and formalizing food businesses.