Each person has a story.

Lupita Barcelo-Duran knows how to tell that story through food. It's one of the first things she considers before designing a cake for a client, friend or family member. 

"I've always been fascinated with food," Barcelo said. 

Born in Casa Grande, Barcelo grew up in an impoverished household in the Eloy area. She and her mother lived under the same roof as her grandparents, and it was through watching her grandmother cook that she first fell in love with cooking. 

Barcelo's grandfather was a farmer, and he regularly hired workers to help harvest crops. Daily, her grandmother would cook family meals not only for the family, but also for the workers. 

"There wasn't much in the kitchen and I was just fascinated that no matter how little there was, she managed to make these great meals," she said. "And I always wondered how she got it done— how she made so much out of so little." 

Taking note of her interest, Barcelo's grandmother started teaching her the basics. She recalls that at about 7 or 8 years, she was already helping out in the kitchen — regularly working on the basics like peeling potatoes. 

Her early experiences with cooking showed her how food could bring people together and light a smile on someone's face. 

"I was just fascinated by that (fact), since I was a little girl," she said. "You can show the love that you put into your meals through feeding people." 

Over time, especially when she became a mother, Barcelo said she felt the urge to learn even more about cooking. She started experimenting with spices to get a better understanding of what each spice brought to each dish. 

She's become so familiar with them, and the flavors that they bring, that today she can taste a dish and know exactly which spice to add to make a dish stand out and give it her own unique twist.

She's come a long way from the young girl who helped her grandmother prepare food for her family and those who worked on their farm. Now, she runs a local catering business as a side hustle. She is also one of the admins on the Casa Grande Foodies Facebook page. 

Food has a way of connecting people, something Barcelo knows from personal experience. Her frequent posts on local community chats of what she terms as her "kreations" led her to become friends with the creator of the CG Foodies page. From that friendship, she was eventually extended the opportunity to be an admin on the page.

Barcelo said taking individual orders — some even directly from the Foodies page — has kept her busy. 

"Once I get into the kitchen, and I put a little music in the background, I'm in heaven," she said. "People will probably try to talk to me and won't get my attention because I'm in that tunnel vision of (thinking about) getting it done, how I'm going to get it done and how I want something to taste." 

In addition to her general love of cooking, Barcelo says she's always been somewhat artsy — something she channels when working with cakes.

A self-taught baker and cake designer, she gets much of her inspiration from platforms like YouTube and Pinterest. But for her, the goal is less about recreating those ideas and more about using them to fuel her own distinctive designs.  

Whether she's working with cakes or savory dishes, Barcelo says her aim is always to ensure that what she creates is unique. Her philosophy is that she wants her food to show people how much she appreciates them. 

"I've always said that if you're going to give someone something, make sure it's coming from your heart. Make sure you're showing them exactly what it is that exudes how you feel about them." 

It's definitely a concept she thinks about a lot, especially when she is coming up with cake designs for orders or for friends and family. Each cake Barcelo creates is unique because she tries to capture the story of both the person ordering the cake and the individual it is for within her designs. 

"I feel that if you make it unique, you're giving what you feel for (the other person)," she said. 

When baking and decorating her cakes, especially for herself and her family, Barcelo says she tries to stick with flavors and colors that match the season. If the cake is for a particular event, she also tries to capture the spirit of that event using buttercream frosting and accents that pay tribute to the likes and preferences of the person receiving the cake or the theme of the event.

One recent example was a cake Barcelo made for her daughter. Since her daughter is a lover of Starbucks coffee, Barcelo said she felt inspired to create a Starbucks-themed cake for her birthday. For another birthday cake she designed for her eldest, she used her daughter's wish to spend the day focusing on self-care as the focal theme behind her cake. 

Other examples stand out in light of their story. That was the case for a carrot cake decorated with bright orange roses, which Barcelo created for a woman whose mom had been diagnosed with late-stage cancer and was in hospice. 

Her mother's favorite type of cake was carrot and her favorite color orange.

Barcelo remembers that when she delivered the cake to the woman's home in the Toltec section of Eloy, they both erupted into tears. She says that decorating is her favorite part of the process because it's when she gets to add the personal touches that mean the most. 

Even if she doesn't know much about the person she's creating the cake for, she tries to glean as much information as possible when an order is placed, even if it's as simple as getting an idea on how they want a cake themed around the season, to ensure she goes into the process with as much inspiration as possible. 

"I get the inspiration from what each person enjoys," she said. "It brings me joy to personalize and make it unique to any given person." 

Barcelo is serving up her cakes and other tasty treats through LaPita's Kreations. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/people/LaPitas-Kreations/100070089700908/.

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