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A Chilean lady with sweet hands: Jacqueline Varas from El Rincón del Manjar

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Chilean baking and patisserie dates back to the 16th century where Spanish and French techniques were combined with local flavours and ingredients, resulting in a varied and delicious combination. These recipes were passed from generation to generation, transforming themselves and it is today where we can taste these delicacies. We are lucky to find businesses in New Zealand that offer delicious traditional Chilean pastry products. Among them, we present El Rincón del Manjar with an interview with its founder: Jacqueline Varas.

El Rincón del Manjar is a sweet space, where you find those authentic flavours of our lands. The star product is the manjar.

Jacquie's brand is precisely MANJAR and all the products she sells are handcrafted, with local ingredients and of excellent quality.

Jacquie is from Antofagasta (Chile), a civil engineer by profession. She arrived with her husband in Auckland in November 2016, motivated to learn English and live a new adventure.

Tell us Jacquie what products does El Rincón del Manjar have?

In El Rincón del Manjar you can find our star product: manjar, also known in other Latin American countries as dulce de leche, arequipe or cajeta. We prepare this product by hand, evaporating the mixture of milk, sugar and bicarbonate for many hours, until we achieve that wonderful thick and sweet consistency that envelops the mouth.

Because it is such a delicious product, we let ourselves be carried away by creativity adding more flavors and now we produce: manjar with orange, coffee, raspberry and lactose-free. All our products are natural and handmade.

Jacquie tells us that her favourite product from Chile that she finds in Tienda Pachamama Latino Store is cheese sticks (ramitas de queso) and merken, we are waiting for cheese sticks to arrive from Chile, we'll soon have more Chilean products in stock.

What other artisan products does the El Rincon del Manjar have?

We have a line of Latin American pastry and confectionery. We make a variety of cakes such as: millefeuille delicacy, delicacy leaf litter, tres leches, love cake and we make personalized orders including sweets for birthdays, parties, weddings or simply to give as gifts.

Among the typical Chilean sweets, we specialize in preparing cachitos, polvados, alfajores, chilenitos, palitas, merenguitos, alfajores de maicena (curacavi sweets and ligua sweets) all filled with our manjar.

We also make artisan jams of peach, quince and raspberry, quince and blueberry, rosehip and green chili sauce.

Soon all our products will be available at Tienda Pachamama Latino Store.

¿How did you learn to make pastries and bake?

I grew up in a city where there was not much to do, my mother had a recipe book and asked me to prepare something delicious for tea. I repeated the recipes from my mother's only book, which she had written herself. One day I tried to make a cake that had four eggs in it, but there were only two in the refrigerator; that's how I created my first recipe: The two-egg cake! When I was eight years old, I did a mathematical exercise to calculate the proportions, and it is to this day that I continue to cook that cake and everyone loves it, it is a wonderful cake!

From then on, my mother left me in charge of the desserts. My mother really liked to cook and made the main dishes for the holidays while I took care of desserts. For me, it was a big responsibility and I looked for recipes in books and magazines. I imagined desserts and went on creating them. The desserts were very good and everyone liked them. And so my passion for pastry and baking was born!

Later, at school, they asked us to bring snacks to share. I brought my desserts and my classmates and teachers loved them. The same thing in college, my classmates fixed my computer in exchange for me to prepare a lemon pie or some other cake. Several of my classmates wanted to marry me after trying my cakes!

“For me, baking is a passion rather than a profession”

From civil engineering to baking there is a great leap, what led you to make this transition?

Baking was not an option as a career where I grew up. The traditional careers were engineering, medicine, law and it was what the parents instilled in us. I went to a private school and I didn't feel like I could tell my dad that I was going to study baking, after the great effort he made to send me to a private school. That's why I studied industrial civil engineering, which provided me with many tools to build my businesses.

When I finished my career, I worked for several years in the postal office in Chile. I got pregnant, decided to quit the job and start a new venture. My business venture was a Spa for girls and teenagers, called 'Moras y fresas'. In this venture, we worked empowering and fulfilling the dreams of many girls. I received an award from "La Mujer" for this initiative. Sercotec (Technical Cooperation Service) then gave us subsidies for a women's development program.

What motivated you to move to New Zealand?

We really wanted to go on an adventure, learn english and explore new horizons. My husband said to me one day, why don't we go to New Zealand? And that's how we decided to emigrate! We arrived and the second month we were here, I got pregnant. Imagine arriving in a new country, getting pregnant without knowing anything about this culture...those were difficult years.

How did you come up with the idea to start selling manjar in New Zealand?

When my youngest son was 3 years old I started looking for work, but the language barrier made me anxious. As I always loved manjar and good pastries, I decided to dust my hands and get to work for those flavors that I missed so much. The main one was manjar. I tried various recipes, experimented a lot with local ingredients, and couldn't find a product that I liked. I realized that the composition of sugar and milk here is different. Finally, I got in touch with an excellent Chilean chef. Together we adapted and blended my family recipes and her professional recipes with locally found ingredients. We experimented and achieved an excellent product. I am continuously learning and working with her to create new innovative and delicious products.

What difficulties and challenges did you have?

My biggest difficulty was myself. I had never offered my products to the public, and that held me back a lot. I felt that I needed a pastry chef degree to be able to offer my products. However, with my passion for cooking and the insistence and support of many people, I dared to take the first step. I received excellent responses and decided to move on.

Life is full of challenges, without them it is "a life without flavor"

At this time we are beginning to offer our products to different places, both Latin and New Zealanders. This is a great challenge, since we are a small artisan producer of manjar and cakes, which in turn opens up a wide variety of growth options.

What do you enjoy the most about your business?

What I enjoy the most is creating with my hands. I spend a lot of time studying and testing new recipes, techniques, and ingredients. In addition, this venture allows me to merge the two things that I love, my profession and my hobby. And that makes it exciting!

Why did you decide to participate in Pachamama Latin market?

I had just registered my business with the Auckland Council when we learned that Pachamama was offering the opportunity to participate in a solidarity market, due to the ravages of COVID. We signed up without thinking twice!

We have participated in all the markets since then and we have witnessed how a beautiful Latino community has formed. The market allows us to speak our language, see many familiar faces and the most gratifying thing for me is to see people's reactions when trying our products.

What do you like best of Pachamama Latin market?

We love Pachamama latin market for many reasons! It is one day a month where we reconnect with our culture, language and our people. And we pass that love on to our children. They can try different flavours of typical food from our lands. Have an opinion of these preparations and even have preferences. Many of our children were born here in New Zealand, so they do not know details that are appreciated in community. And that's when I see my children wanting to be part of this lovely latin market.

Don't forget to follow Jacquie and Rincón del Manjar on social media!

They ship throughout New Zealand, including gifts and personal introductions. Find El Rincon del Manjar on Facebook and Instagram

Order via WhatsApp: +64 210 268 1913


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