On the Line: Pedro Resendiz of Tamarindo Truck, Part Two
Photo by Meranda Carter
Day two with Pedro Resendiz gets to the heart of what makes the Tamarindo Truck tick. We tie together family, life experiences and the menu, which differentiates the Resendizes' luxe lonchera from the rest. He also shares his thoughts on receiving criticism (and the importance of having a thick skin). Our storytelling begins in part one, but we'll let you off with a warning.
Hardest lesson you've learned:
The hardest lesson has been accepting the idea that there are several viewpoints out there in regard to what Mexican food is. I serve what I view to be traditional, authentic Mexican food. Sometimes, when we serve people, they will look at our food somewhat puzzled. Take our quesadillas as an example. Some people expect HUGE flour tortillas, with Cheddar cheese dripping from the sides, slathered with sour cream. For me, this is a far cry from the classic dish. In Queretaro, where I am from, quesadillas have NO business being in the same room as a flour tortilla. I'm not saying that my way is the right way, but it has been hard for me to see people walk away from our truck without even giving it a try just because it may not look or sound like the Mexican food they are familiar with.
What would your last meal on Earth be?
My mom's nopales and chickpea stew. I have tried to replicate it, but it's just not the same.
It's a tie between my mom and my wife.
My mom taught me everything I know about cooking. She also showed me how eating and cooking can make you feel . . . how it is an experience. I can taste happiness, love and home when I eat my mom's cooking. I hope people feel something similar when they eat my cooking.
My beautiful wife keeps me motivated and focused, and she keeps my feet on the ground. She has always believed in me and our dreams, even when they seemed so out of reach. We spent some time far away from home and didn't know if we would ever get back, and she still stood by me and made me feel like home could be anywhere as long as we were together. That is love. Lastly, she is a crack-up! She makes work fun, and that's important.
Tell us about your food-service-industry background.
I've worked in several restaurants. I've done everything from dish washing to busing tables to running the line. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I have had in food service, especially the more humbling ones. People don't think about the dish washers or the prep cooks who work behind-the-scenes to make sure that everything is ready when the chef arrives. Working in food service is like being in a family: Everyone has an important role to play, and each role contributes to the success of others and the family as a whole.
You're a family-run business; who's in charge of what?
Uh-oh . . . Now, you are trying to get me in some serious trouble!! My wife, Sarah, and I run the business with A TON of help from our extended family. My wife is in charge of public relations; she is the face of Tamarindo, and I like it that way. We also collaborate on menu items together; she has a different perspective than I do, and that's good for me--and our food. I am the man behind the madness! I feel most comfortable behind the grill and on the line.
We couldn't have done any of this without the help of our family . . . all of them! From mothers and fathers, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends. Over the past several years, we have been through a great deal to get here. Our family and friends know that better than anyone. "Family-run" is such an understatement; we are a family-sustained business. Thank you!!
What differentiates you from other trucks serving tortas and tacos?
I think the biggest difference is that our food is fresh and 100 percent handmade. We avoid cans and prepackaged food like the plague! We may use chipotle adobe here or there, but for the most part, we are making every component for our menu items from scratch--down to boiling and grinding our own beans and making salsas fresh each morning before service. We try our hardest to source local and organic. We refuse to feed you anything we wouldn't eat ourselves. It's that simple . . . and delicious!
Biggest challenge about running a luxe lonchera:
The biggest challenge is having a limited kitchen and prep area. We have so many great ideas in terms of what we would like to serve, but often we are limited because of our beloved, but very OLD-SCHOOL truck.
Most popular agua fresca:
Jamaica-clove has been very popular. We have started giving free samples of all our waters because people have been more unfamiliar with the flavors than we had expected. People always like them once they try them! It cracks us up at times because people will ask what's in them, and they are always shocked by our response. People don't expect real fruit with no added powder or fillers to be so good.
The zucchini-flower quesadillas sound creative. How are they "Mama's style"?
We named them "Mama's style" after my mother because that's how she used to make them for my siblings and me--and she still does, for that matter. I really get a lot of joy out of sharing them with our customers.
What dish would you tell newcomers to Tamarindo Truck to try first?
Our mariscos are really amazing. Lately, we have been doing a delicious ceviche and a tostada of camarones con chipotle crema. The feedback has been really outstanding. I don't think people expect to get quality seafood out of a truck. This is something that has been around in Mexico for ages. If you travel down to Baja, you will see tons of seafood carts and stands along the coast of Rosarito and Ensenada. If you get a chance to try them, don't make the mistake of passing them up. You will love them!
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
Playing professional soccer . . . ha, ha, ha. I wish! But it's easy to say when you are doing something else! In all seriousness, I would love to play soccer for a living. It is very similar to being a cook: It takes passion, dedication and real commitment.
What advice do you have for those who might be thinking about a career in food?
Everyone always told me how much hard work the food business can be, and I agree with that. But I wish people would have told me how disheartening it can be at times. I don't mind the physical work or even the long days, but when someone has something negative to say about what I have cooked, it can really be difficult. You have to have thick skin and understand that some people are going to have different taste than you.
What do you see yourself doing in five years? Ten years?
I will definitely be running around with a ton of kiddos! I'll be going to soccer practices or coaching a Little League team. I would love to have a restaurant--maybe even serving up a Mexican interpretation of the great Italian "family style" I like so much. Strangers sharing tables with other strangers because they can, not because they have to. People meeting other like-minded individuals around a table of really good, really simple, really fresh food.