March is Women’s History Month, and we’d like to celebrate a few of the incredible women leading the local food scene. The women behind your favorite Gainesville eats are sisters, mothers and students. A handful of local women business owners shared their stories and inspirations for taking on their own food establishments. Despite the odds these women faced in uncertain times, their passion for food and family encouraged them to persevere. Whether it’s baked goods or burritos, be on the lookout for these women-led eateries the next time you get a craving.
Founded in 2013 and located in the Tioga Town Center is one of Gainesville’s most popular eateries, Cilantro Tacos. Whether you’re tracking down one of their food trucks or taking a trip out to Newberry, you’re guaranteed to find a wide range of flavorful dishes made with fresh ingredients. The family-owned restaurant brings the dynamic taste of Southern California and authentic Mexican cuisine to Gainesville.
Nataly Meth, co-owner of Cilantro Tacos, runs the local staple alongside her brother, Nathan Meth. Nataly balances a full workload between graduate school and the restaurant, but she doesn’t let her busy schedule get in the way of building connections with the community.
“People don’t always realize what you can give back to the community when you feed them. We’ve built a place where people can come together and have a conversation over good food. When I stand back and look at how I breathed life into something great like this, it’s my proudest moment because it’s rewarding in a way that I will only grow to appreciate over the years.”
Madre’s Cake was founded on November 24, 2020 by Sheyla Santana and Fernanda Freitas. They wanted to help mothers respectfully re-enter the workforce and bring the local community together — while still staying true to their Brazillian roots. After the pandemic hit, the female founders wanted to share love and healthy treats with the highest-quality ingredients to help families and friends connect with each other — especially their own.
Fernanda, who recently became a stepmother, turned to baking not only to feel productive again but also “to get to know her two kids better and introduce them to her family traditions from Brazil.” Sheyla said they juggle the many tasks of motherhood, but through mutual support and understanding, they inspire each other to keep striving — and sometimes other women.
“Sometimes people talk about motherhood in a very romantic way, and we know it’s not always romantic moments— more difficult actually. As a woman and mom, we have to support each other because we know it's not always flowers and sometimes there are tears. So we invite other moms to help us out because other women are always willing to do what they can.”
Cristina’s Vegan Bakery
Cristina’s Vegan Bakery, founded on January 28th of this year, recently entered the local food scene with a variety of vegan sweet treats ranging from donuts to cookies. The entrepreneur and baker behind the entire operation is Cristina Conde — as the bakery name implies. Cristina, who is a vegan with a sweet tooth, started baking to satisfy her own craving for donuts and was inspired to share her baked goods with local vegans searching for the same desserts.
Cristina simply aspired to “spread compassion for animals through food” and refers to her bakery as a “passion project without an initial plan.” While the business can be hard to manage as a full-time college student, Cristina is dedicated to creating confections that exceed her customers’ expectations when she delivers it to their door.
“I work really hard to make the customers happy with accessible options because I feel like women don’t get enough recognition for what they do. When I someone buys from me, I want to be proud knowing they enjoyed it because it’s my best stuff, and I gave them exactly what they were looking for.”
These female founders, bakers, chefs and entrepreneurs make up the brains and brawn behind a few of our local favorites. Gainesville’s diverse food scene is thriving thanks to the skills and commitment of the women who work daily to deliver innovative dishes bursting with flavor. Although March 31 marks the end of Women’s History Month, you can support these women-owned businesses all year round!