A North Texas bakery and café is named Yelp's "Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. 2019." For the woman at the center of Quixote Bakery Café in Richland Hills, it isn't even her full-time job.
"I give folders at the beginning of each nine weeks," teacher Sayda Rapalo said, as her students filed into her classroom at Haltom City's Shannon High School.
"She's an amazing teacher," senior Katelyn Thrasher said. "Like, she's the kind of teacher that you would want for every single one of your classes."
Katelyn and her fellow seniors know their teacher for a skill other than her ability to make a complex topic like Spanish easier to understand.
"Ya, she brought in these, like, brownie things with cream filling," senior Michael Blankenship said.
"It was delicious, of course," senior Jeffrey Ryan said.
"I could eat them all day, every day," Katelyn said. "And the mousse! It's so creamy!"
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Sayda has loved cooking desserts since she was a child, but she didn't realize how much she loved it until a student asked her about following her dreams.
"And we had a really deep conversation and one of my students said, "OK, Mrs. Rapalo, what about you? Have you followed your dream?'" Sayda recalled. "I got quiet and I didn't know what to say! And then I said, "No. I haven't,' and they said, "Why?' "I don't know!' And then that's when everything started."
She and her husband, Roland, enrolled in culinary school together at El Centro College in Dallas. Then, they both got second jobs to pay for Sayda to go to pastry school in France.
"I said, 'You know what? I need to follow my dream and my dream is to be a French pastry chef,'" Sayda said.
After two trips to France to learn the art of becoming a pastry chef, she perfected her skills and reached her goal.
"They ask you to master some basic recipes. Once you master those they give you your hat and once you have your hat that means that you are a pastry chef," Sayda said with a smile.
Now her trade specialty is pâtisseries.
"This is called dacquoise, but you can use this as a base for mousses, a base for other tarts, other cakes," Sayda said, while mixing the ingredients in her kitchen.
Some of her treats take two days to make and they're all from scratch.
"Yes, yes, so every single pastry that I do — it's with, really with love," Sayda said.
To share her new skillset, Sayda and her husband bought an older pink house in Richland Hills and converted it into their restaurant, Quixote Bakery Café.
"Quixote is because I love Don Quixote and if you read the story he is a crazy man following his dream," Sayda said.
And while Sayda continues fulfilling her dream, she's working to find balance between her careers. In the morning she teaches Spanish and at night she bakes.
"There you go, this is the famous Paris-Brest from the bicycle race in France," Sayda said as she presented the decadent dessert.
During the day, Sayda's husband, Roland, runs the café where he also serves up sandwiches on his homemade bread.
"Sometimes he even does a better job than me, so that means I'm a good teacher!" Sayda said with a laugh.
Now that school is on break for the summer, Sayda, who is also a mother of two, is able to join her family in the café and spend time with her customers.
"So you want the big one, right?" Sayda asked customer Alex Nguyen as he ordered a fruit-topped tarte dacquoise for his mother's birthday.
"It's really popular. It's the one that sells the most," Sayda said.
After ordering, Alex was able to try a smaller version of the tarte dacquoise. "It's good! You should buy one!" Alex said with a laugh.
Alex isn't the only reviewer with kind words.
"One day we started receiving a lot of messages from customers and they were like, "You're on the news!' And I was like, "Really? Can you send me something?'" Sayda said.
Customer-review website and app Yelp released its "Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. 2019" and Quixote Bakery Café made the list.
"We are number 80," Sayda said. Quixote Bakery is ranked among Yelp's top restaurants in the country earning the Yelp status "must try this year."
As her senior Spanish students prepare to leave for their next adventures, they said Sayda following her dream and succeeding is an inspiration.
"Absolutely, she is definitely an inspiration in my life that you can do whatever you want," Katelyn said.
"And if you have dreams, it doesn't matter the age, it doesn't matter you have the money or not, it's a dream you follow it," Sayda said.
Quixote Bakery Café is located at 7272 Glenview Drive in Richland Hills. They are usually open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but check their facebook page: facebook.com/quixotebakerycafe for updates before you go. Everything is made daily and there are limited amounts so they suggest arriving early to get the best selection.