by Bianca Benedi, Anna Maria Islander, Nov 2, 2016

For almost two months, the owners of EmpaCurious, a Latin-style culinary team, have been setting up behind the scenes, preparing a new home base at the Center of Anna Maria Island.

The center welcome EmpaCurious into a lease agreement in early September that allows the buisnes to operate an evening shift in the nonprofit's kitchen. Now the new food service is bringing empanadas and other Latin cuisine to the center and the island.

EmpaCurious co-founder and Vice-President Sylvia Noguera, a seven year island resident whose children attend center programs, noticed the center cafe was unoccupied in the evening and approached her partner, Alfonso Abreu, about operating at the center.

The pair brought the idea to the nonprofit's executive director, Kristen Lessig.

"They approached us about helping with our cafe and renting out kitchen space to get their empanadas up and ruining, " Lessig said. "It seemed like a perfect solution to our problem of having someone run the cafe in the evening for sports.

Lessig brought the idea to the board president Bill Shuman, who approved, and the lease was signed in September.

When the Center was rebuilt in 2008, the commercial kitchen was budgeted for culinary classes, but those plans never came to fruition.

During the day, the space is leased to Traveling Gourmet owner Molly O'Connor, who serves smoothies, sandwiches and snacks in the same kitchen.

However, her service has not available in the evenings, when sports activities pick up at the center in the gym and outdoors.

"It just works out the she wanted daytime access to the kitchen...and EmpaCurious fits more with our evenings, sports, parents-on-the-field crowd, "Lessig said. "So we were able to split the day".

Along with operating the cafe in the evenings, EmpaCurious is offering a frozen food line and island wide delivery service.

The buisnes offers delivery until 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, something Abreu said the island is lacking. "Lots of restaurants close early on the island," Abreu said. "People have come to us and said this is amazing. We don't have anything like this on the island".

"Thew goal is to provide a consistent evening option, " Lessig said, "so parent s know every Tuesday evening during the kid's sports games they can pic up a meal."

Empacurious is operating in the cafe and official launch was planned for Nov. 1. The business has catered several center events and "the response has been very positive, " Lessig said.

According to the terms of the lease agreement with Traveling Gourmet and EmpaCurious, the center is responsible for maintaining the kitchen.

EmpaCurious seeks to fill several positions, including delivery and kitchen position. Although Abreu declined to share the length of the lease, he said "It depends on how successful we are...but we  perceive opportunity there."

The center also declined to share the details of the lease, Shuman said. "The center has been working to utilize all the space in our building most effectively. We had Molly working and leasing space in the kitchen and found that additional revenue could be generated by adding another vendor."

"I've tried the food and enjoyed it," he added