Teen business owner wins award for running crepe stand

Rafael Bitanga in his home, where he teaches students how to make crepes. (Photo by Kayla Desroches / KMXT)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A Kodiak high schooler just won a 2018 Spirit of Youth award for running his own crepe stand.

Seventeen-year-old Rafael Bitanga is the owner of the Crepe Escape and teaches students to work the stand at events like Kodiak’s annual Crab Festival and the occasional fundraiser. He uses his home as his training grounds.

To get a sense of his process, KMXT met Rafael at his house one afternoon last week.


Rafeal breaks an egg into a bowl. We’re on step one of the process, whipping up the batter. We’re 24 hours away from step two.

“Having it sit overnight will actually even make the batter calm down so that the gluten settles down.”

After some flour pouring, and some batter mixing, we shove the bowl in the fridge, and I come back the next day for the hard part.

Making a crepe is a delicate process. You need to pour the batter onto a circular griddle and then spread it quickly with a t-shaped stick. It’s takes sleight of hand to turn the spreader in a circular motion and cook the batter evenly.

Once cooks, you slide a spatula under the edges and flip the crepe.

You then drop in your fillings. In this case that’s nutella and banana.

Rafael says ugly crepes like this one end up in the scrap pile for later consumption by employees, and he says it take some employees longer to catch on than others.

He says last year he worked with over ten students on rotation, but he’s downsizing to four this year.

“I’ve got two cooks and two front desk, and even the front desk are people who could actually cook at the same time, so it’s nice to have people who are employed for two different things.”

Since Rafael took over the business, he’s learned a lot about the realities of ownership, like the need for insurance, a food handler’s card, and funds.

“So, it’s investing and working before you invest into something. So, I have a photography business, so I got money off taking pictures and also doing wedding videos, so I thought of maybe taking that money and investing it into the Crepe Escape, so that’s how we got our initial money start up Crepe Escape.”

Rafael loves cooking, and it’s something he grew up doing with his mother. He says they still hold parties and serve food they cook themselves.

The crepe stand started with Marie Acemah, who now lives in Anchorage. She says Rafael used to work at the Crepe Escape.

“He was the only student who could make three crepes at once, which I couldn’t do, and so I didn’t find a buyer, and I thought why not Rafael since his dream is becoming a culinary artist?”

Acemah, who runs a digital storytelling company for young people, nominated Rafael for the Spirit of Youth award, which recognizes kids making a difference in their communities.

The other Kodiak recipient, Robert Otto, won an award for his work with Kodiak Teen Court.

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