Simple & Complex

08/01/2023 01:38 AM By Lisa Anderson
For the Love of Food
Yina Orejuela
Yina Orejuela
Story by Lisa Anderson • Photo by Joshua Jacobs

Simple & Complex

Colombian-American Conquers Her Fears & Macarons

Macarons are where simplicity meets complexity. With just a handful of humble ingredients—egg whites, almond flour, and powdered sugar—these French delicacies come to life with a smooth, crisp shell that can be filled with a symphony of flavors. This is what attracts Yina Orejuela to a business dedicated to making only these tasty treats: With one base recipe, she can create stunning colors and an array of appetizing fillings.

Carving Out a Niche

Yina, a Colombian immigrant, is the owner of Color Sugar. It is the perfect blend of her love for baking and her admiration for the delightful French dessert. “They’re a lot like us [women] or females—very moody, depending on the day [and] depending on the temperature of your kitchen. But you can be very versatile in colors and flavors. Nowadays, [bakers are] getting even more creative with decorations and even the shapes of the macarons. It excites me.”

This fondness for challenges can be traced back to Yina’s unconventional path into the baking world. She didn’t go to culinary school or grow up baking with family. Instead, she started her journey at the urging of her sister, who had also found joy in baking as a stay-at-home mom.

A Catalyst for Change

Yina’s life took a dramatic turn when she fell seriously ill, about eight years ago, and found herself unable to work. Having worked since she was 15 years old, Yina couldn’t image sitting around the house with nothing to do. “My sister actually was a new mother, and she found a passion for baking to do something with her boy at home. So, she says, ‘Why don’t you try baking?’ [I had] never done it before.”

Yina’s sister, who lives in New York, taught her through video chat. It was meant to be, as Yina found joy in making things like little cakes, cookies, and oh yes, macarons. Those macarons are the perfect blend of creativity and low stress, making her business a joyful one.

Overcoming Fear

The journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur wasn’t always smooth. Yina was initially wary of stepping away from the familiar employee role and becoming her own boss. But with the support of her family, especially her husband, she began to see things from a different perspective. “If you have a dream that you want to chase and have the support, and even if you don’t, if you want to give it a try… My husband always tells me, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen? You just go find yourself another job.’”

Yina’s story is full of the ups, downs, and challenges many people face, but it is inspiring to see her looking for opportunities rather than waiting for one to knock on her door. In many ways, her journey mirrors the essence of a macaron. Just like life itself, a macaron presents itself as a delicate and exquisite creation, enticing us with its vibrant colors and delicious flavors. Yet, beneath its flawless exterior lies a complex process, where the precise balance of ingredients and the delicate artistry of technique must harmonize. Similarly, life presents us with moments of sweetness and moments of bitterness, just as a macaron delivers contrasting tastes and textures. It is in navigating through the challenges and embracing the imperfections that we discover the true beauty and resilience of both a macaron and the human spirit. Just as Yina perseveres and seeks opportunities amidst the unpredictable nature of life, so too, can we find inspiration in the way a macaron embodies the perfect blend of fragility and strength.

Her illness taught her to cherish life and reassess her priorities. When her oldest of two boys turned 18, Yina cried—it was in that moment she realized she could have missed this day and all the other days with her family.
Learn More

Watch the full interview on YouTube @localapodcast or your favorite podcast app. Just search for Locala Podcast.It airs August 11, 2023.

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Lisa Anderson