Doughnuts were not always on Adriana Negrón and José Torres’ minds. As chefs, the pair found their passion for cuisine leaned more towards the savory than the sweet. But after finding themselves without work as a result of the pandemic, the two needed a new way to flex their cooking muscles. With that, doughnuts became their unlikely, yet perfect canvas.
El Secreto launched in Denver early on in the pandemic with a simple aspiration: To showcase the duo’s shared Puerto Rican heritage through artisanal doughnuts and other delectable pastries. “When we were out of work we decided to start doing something to get people to see our talent,” said Negrón.
They also wanted to offer folks something that would awaken their senses with one bite. (Hence, the name of their business, which translates to “a secret.”). Take, for example, the “Elvis Presley,” with banana mousse, grape jam, smoked chunky bacon, peanut butter glaze and banana brûlée or the “Horchata 3 Leches” featuring a rich filling of evaporated milk, almond milk and rice milk topped with a burnt French meringue and maraschino cherries.
Seasonality is a big part of their offerings. In fact it was their Christmas box featuring Decadent Pumpkin Pie, Spiced Apple Cheesecake and Candy Pecan doughnuts that helped them gain traction, putting their business on the map.
Negrón and Torres create new flavors by brainstorming one-of-a-kind ideas together. “When we both like an idea, we look for it to make sure no one has it, then we get down to work.” With doughnuts like orange-pistachio brûlée, edible flower adorned blueberry lavender glaze and meteor-cheesecake topped with strawberry and meringue rocks, the current menu reads more like a fine French bakery than a doughnut shop.
But doughnuts aren’t the only dessert El Secreto is giving an upgrade to. Customers can expect other classic Puerto Rican mainstays like guava-filled puffed pastry, flaky quesito with queso crema and cheesy Mallorca. “We want you to taste the authentic flavors of Puerto Rico in our products,” said Negrón. “That is why when they buy Mallorca from us, we recommend eating it with ham and cheese, well-toasted, just as it’s done in Puerto Rican bakeries.”
The positive responses the duo receives helps fuel their passion. “People who have knowledge about the traditional flavors of the Island of Charm tell us that they are transported as if they were back in Puerto Rico,” he said. “It gives us joy.”
Currently, the two only accept pre-orders and work out of rented kitchens, which change location “every three months to give better service to our clients,” Negrón said. To enjoy one of El Secreto’s goodies, customers in the Denver and Aurora area can place an order on their website or send a direct message on Instagram.
Needless to say their social media is eye candy for those craving a sweet treat. As Negrón explained, new flavors and scrumptious surprises are always in the works. “Chef José has an incredible talent for mixing flavors,” he said. “We go to the kitchen and you know the rest.”
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