Building New Hope at Café Chavalos

Starting from humble beginnings, Café Chavalos has grown to be a major attraction in Granada, Nicaragua, drawing crowds of local people and swarms of tourists to enjoy what has been referred to as “the best tasting cuisine in town”. Café Chavalos is a project of the volunteer driven, non-profit organization known as Building New Hope, which is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Granada, Nicaragua.

Many of the chefs and waiters of Café Chavalos, who welcome patrons with a smile and the promise of an unforgettable dining experience, were at one time street children. Some were involved in local gangs, some were addicted to drugs, some dropped out of school at an early age, none were employed and they all felt that the future held nothing good in store for them. In line with their goal of building people-to-people bridges of hope and understanding for at-risk youth, Building New Hope decided to challenge eight of these young men to exchange their street lives for the opportunity to develop culinary skills. Each with their own personality, possibly the biggest challenge ahead was to forge a different kind of brotherhood, one that would call for co-operation and respect. It was a challenge that they would rise to meet and the project has gone on to exceed all expectations.

The initial eight participants received cooking and restaurant service training from professionals. With the financial backing provided by Building New Hope, Los Chavalos (the boys) started serving the public from a small café. In a short space of time a special bond developed between Los Chavalos and the fraternity developed into a self-help and support group that has gone from strength to strength.

Turning out dinners of chicken and fish fillets bathed in sauces that have earned them fame, sumptuous creamed soups, fresh vegetable salads and magnificent home-made desserts, Café Chavalos started to draw crowds of patrons and in time became a self-sustaining business. Encouraged by the success of the project, Building New Hope purchased a larger building in a historic district of Granada. With the donated assistance of architects and Katie Staib, a talented Washington artist, the building was transformed into an attractive and unique restaurant. The additional space has opened up the opportunity for more students to be trained and more customers to be served.

Many of the students of Café Chavalos have gone on to be employed at guest houses and restaurants in Nicaragua. There is no doubt that Café Chavalos is an excellent example of what amazing things can be achieved when people are given an opportunity for Building New Hope.