The Chapin Breakfast, served only once a month at Santa Cecilia’s church.
Long before the concept of a pop-up restaurant was even established in 2009 by a certain audacious, Los Angeles French chef, Santa Cecilia’s Catholic Church
had already mastered it. In 2001 to be exact, when the South L.A. church’s congregants of various ethnic backgrounds formed four different volunteer cooking groups, as a way to fundraise for the church and their own unique culture’s religious celebrations.
Ladies from the Guatemalan group, rolling taquitos for church brunch.
The four groups: Grupo Fraternidad de Señor de Esquipulas (Guatemalan), Grupo Guadalupano (Mexican), Grupo Oaxaqueño (Oaxacan) and Grupo Divino Salvador (Salvadoran) take turns occupying the church’s smallish kitchen every Sunday. One Sunday morning, the Oaxacan group is there selling luscious, silky homemade pitch-black Mole. And the next week, it is the Salvadoran group, pat-patting griddled Pupusas stuffed with cheese and chicharron. Every Sunday is a different culture’s cuisine.
Single-item food currency exchanged for cash within the church.
Their ordering operation is simple and made to streamline the post-mass hungry crowd of worshippers: go to the cashier table, order from the whiteboard with the morning’s specials, buy a designated food ticket for that item, take it to the serving table and get your food as soon as it’s ready.
The Oaxacan menu
The Guatemalan menu
The food that is available are humble dishes within the cultures’ gastronomy, just-like-mom-used-to-make treats. Two fried eggs with ripe, golden plantains, black beans, a chunk of cheese and cultured cream is the sampler breakfast equivalent of Guatemala, lovingly called the “Chapin Breakfast.” When it’s the Oaxacan group’s turn, huge, Tlayudas are the churchgoer’s favorite – thick tortillas shellacked with black beans and toasted lard. The prices for these food items, are even humbler. Tamales de Mole and Chiles Rellenos are available for only $3. Though, whichever group’s turn it is, the church’s popular crunchy taquitos are a mainstay. As are the nachos for the children
A Oaxacan Tlayuda at Santa Cecilia
Despite the low prices for food, the groups do make enough for their cultural religious celebrations. “For our annual Cristo Mojado celebration
, we close the city’s streets down, cooking helps us pay for that,” says Alfredo Salazar, the 50-year-old volunteer cashier that is in the Guatemalan group.
The dining room is open from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every Sunday and open to the public.
Santa Cecilia Church
4230 S Normandie Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90037
La Burbuja*Paola Briseño (Sonic Trace’s Associate Producer) contributed to this article.