Q – and – A with Francisco Colora


Gabriela Sanchez

Francisco Colora, founder of El Papa Restaurant

Gabriela Sanchez and Emmy Hardy

Francisco Colora, an English as a second language student at Dallas College Brookhaven Campus, weaves his storytelling capabilities into his business. Colora’s business, El Papa Restaurante, is the result of those capabilities, as well as hard work.

Walking into the rented space of Velvet Cafe on a Sunday afternoon, the only day of the week El Papa Restaurante uses the area, customers are greeted with warm lighting at El Papa. Upbeat music blasts from speakers on the walls. Smiles are exchanged between customers placing their orders. And servers weave around tables as they deliver meals.

When the playlist ends, the silence won’t be present long as Colora’s singing fills the room with an acapella performance of a vallenato, a Colombian style of music, entertaining guests while they enjoy their meals. Colora’s performance is embodied with a candid yet incredibly powerful and distinctive sound.

The restaurant offers a wide variety of Colombian and Venezuelan food. Customers can sink their teeth into delicious beef soups, rice with pork, fried and grilled fish, and pork ribs,   alongside other delicacies. Yet the most amazing thing about this restaurant is not its music or  food, but the family union behind the business. Colora has the support of his aunts and siblings, who help to make this once-far-off dream a physical reality.

Q: Francisco, tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I was born in Villa del Rosario in the state of Zulia in Venezuela, and I have lived in Dallas for almost six years … I studied industrial safety.

Q: What was the main reason to start this business?

[I wanted] to move forward in life, support my family and to have the opportunity to record an album. Through music, I can express joy to people with vallenato. I have had this idea of creating a restaurant, El Papa, for many years, but it was really in God’s time. This project has [been] seven months without stopping, every Sunday … a process and battle that has been worth it because it has taught me that nothing in life is easy. We have to fight for what we want.

Q: Where do the magic of the recipes of El Papa come from?

Almost all my family cooks delicious food and I think [the recipes are] inherited from my maternal grandmother, a very hard-working Colombian woman, Josefa, who is also my inspiration.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have gone through to make this dream possible?

Honestly, it has been a bit difficult, but we are working on it … I have the privilege of [working] with my aunts Lidella and Mariemilia, my brothers Andres, Carmen, Nina, Mariela and Marcos. Each one of them is part of this incredible project. For now, we only open the restaurant on Sundays because we don’t have our own place.

Q: What are your plans for the future and expectations? What would you say to those people who want to achieve a goal like yours?

My future goals are to be able to open my own place … beautiful and comfortable for everyone. I leave everything in God’s hands because He is the one who allows … We have to focus on what really benefits us in our life. Two of my keys would be to help others and always be grateful wherever you are, with much or little … My phrase: “Vamos Pa Lante” (Let’s Go Forward).