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After winning James Beard Award, Yoli Tortilleria owners plan to open new Kansas City restaurant

Yoli Tortilleria's Westside retail shop, at 1668 Jefferson Street, will soon be made into a 10-seat restaurant focused on the history of corn.
Peggy Lowe
KCUR 89.3
Yoli Tortilleria's Westside retail shop, at 1668 Jefferson Street, will soon be made into a 10-seat restaurant focused on the history of corn.

Marissa Gencarelli says that winning the national James Beard Award for Outstanding Bakery speaks to Mexican diversity and the importance of the "humble tortilla."

Marissa Gencarelli was so busy trying to get to the stage at the James Beard Award ceremony in Chicago this week, she missed what the show's hosts said.

So when she heard the replay on Friday’s “Up To Date,” she couldn’t help but be emotional.

“It almost made me feel the same way that I felt (that day) — completely shaken,” she said with a laugh.

On Tuesday, Marissa and Mark Gencarelli were awarded the prestigious James Beard Award for Outstanding Bakery. Yoli Tortilleria has a retail shop on the city’s Westside and a manufacturing plant in the Coleman Highlands, where they make tortillas for restaurants.

 A woman leans against a gray wall with her arms folded. She is smiling at the camera.
Carlos Moreno
KCURT 89.3
Marissa Gencarelli, co-owner of Yoli Tortilleria with her husband, Mark, told KCUR's Up To Date they plan to expand their James Beard Award-winning business into a restaurant.

Marissa Gencarelli said the couple didn’t believe they would win, so they were simply enjoying the experience and planning some fun for the next day. Instead, they spent Wednesday answering phone calls, doing video interviews and talking to a national newspaper from Mexico City.

“We were just non-stop. We were obviously not expecting it,” she said. “We thought, oh we’re just gonna chill the next day, we’re without our kids and we’re gonna have fun. Instead we were sequestered in our hotel room.”

Marissa Gencarelli, who is from Sonora, Mexico, said winning the award gives them a platform for their mission — bringing more Mexican diversity to the U.S. along with cultural food experiences.

“I think that it really speaks, for me, about the diversity in the United States, about the humble tortilla making it all the way and getting the rightful credit that they should,” she said.

What started for Gencarelli as a hobby to help her relieve the stress from her job in the technology industry has now become another business. The couple plan to open a 10-seat restaurant at Yoli’s Westside location in the next 2-3 months.

“It’s going to be small, but mighty, just like we’ve always wanted to do it,” she said. “It will be all about the history of corn.”

The couple is also working on different food concepts which they plan to unveil in the next few years, she said.

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