TAMPA — Brenda Villacorta once vowed she wouldn’t go into the culinary arts.
Her mom owns Sugar Art Studio in Lutz. Her grandmother owned a coffee shop, and later, Villacorta’s aunt took over the shop. But Villacorta wanted to carve her own path in a different field.
In June, however, she opened her own bakery in Tampa: Sucré Table.
“It was kind of in my bloodline,” the 25-year-old said of her career path.
The store sells everything from “Piña Colada” and “Strawberry Japanese Cheesecake” pastries to classics like croissants and snickerdoodles. It is located in what was formerly the Take Three Cafe on Kennedy Boulevard.
Villacorta had planned to study architecture or engineering. But after shadowing someone in an architecture office, she realized she couldn’t sit still, and she longed for a job where she could use her hands more. So she returned to her roots and started a career in the culinary arts.
At age 18, Villacorta left Tampa for New York, where she studied at the Culinary Institute of America. Since then, she’s competed in about five different Food Network shows. While in New York, she also cut her teeth working at Michelin three-star restaurants in Manhattan, including Jean George, Le Bernardin and Dominique Ansel Bakery.
“I fell in love with modern pastries,” Villacorta said.
About two years ago, Villacorta decided she wanted to open her own business. She spent anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week working for famous restaurants. At the second place Villacorta worked, she met a 25-year-old executive chef, and decided to set the goal of starting her own place or becoming an executive chef by the same age.
Born in Peru, Villacorta came to the United States at age five and moved to the Tampa Bay area about 15 years ago. She attended Steinbrenner High School and now has an intern, who was referred to her by a former teacher.
Gabriella Hernandez, 18, has been interning with Villacorta since April and also has plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America, starting in the fall. A Tampa native, Hernandez said she’s been able to learn new techniques and baking styles with Villacorta, which she hasn’t seen in the city before.
“Every day it’s something new,” she said.
Kieran Grumley, the head barista for the bakery, recently started working full time and has been experimenting with specialities such as the cafe’s Chocolate Orange Iced Latte.
“It’s been a lot of fun to come up with different drink ideas,” he said.
Villacorta said opening during the pandemic has created some unpredictability in terms of business, but the bakery also has several returning customers. Each night, she ensures that the store is deep cleaned. It is sanitized throughout the day.
For the young chef, seeing her own business open has been one of her proudest accomplishments.
“It means a lot to me,” Villacorta said. “When I set myself goals, I make sure that they happen.”