On the Line: Ellen Chen & Mario Del Pero Of Mendocino Farms, Part Two
Ellen confirms what we were wondering at the end of our interview
Photo by Dustin Ames
This week's dynamic duo power through the rest of our questioning with the greatest of ease. In fact, the longer we read about Ellen and Mario, the more their twist at the end makes sense.
Read the first part of our interview with Ellen and Mario back here. Then finish the conversation down below . . . .
What's your favorite childhood memory? Ellen Chen: Traveling with my family. Best trip ever was an adventure through the Orient from Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan and Taiwan. Mario Del Pero: Sunday suppers with my Italian family at my Nonna's house.
Where did you grow up? Ellen: Born in Taiwan and moved to Northern California when I was four. Mario: Out in farm country, Yuba City between Chico and Davis.
Hardest lesson you've learned: Ellen: "If you build it, they will not come." Mario and I had a teriyaki concept before Mendo that was mildly successful. We had a following in Manhattan Beach and Downtown LA ,and decided to open one up in Westwood. For a slew of different reasons, it was not awesome. It was an expensive lesson, but opened up our eyes and really humbled us. Mario: Be quiet and really listen to your guest. There are nuggets of genius in every critique.
Last song playing on your radio: Ellen: Sad-- Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, because it's my daughter's favorite song. Mario: Something Foo Fighters.
When you're not at work, what are you doing? Ellen: Hanging out with my kids. Mario: Coaching my seven year-old daughter's soccer team.
Did you always plan on working in foodservice? Ellen: No-- I had a huge passion for food, but after meeting Mario, I got sucked into the world and can't imagine doing anything else. Mario: I love making people happy and getting paid for it. I applied to law school and my uncle (who is a lawyer) told me not to go. I'm glad I listened.
Last book read; how was it? Ellen: The last book I read was The Fred Factor. It's a great read about how passion in your work and life can turn ordinary in extraordinary. It's something that we have also incorporated into the training of our team members. Mario: Just read Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. I really connected with the theme; it aligns with what we are trying to do at Mendo.
Last thing you looked up online: Ellen: Our bank account. Mario: Reservation for BrisketTown in Brooklyn.
What other skills do you have outside of the restaurant? Ellen: That's a good question. Not sure anymore . . . . Mario: I've worked in restaurants since being in college in USC. I'm unhirable.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business? Ellen: I have always wanted to work for a non-profit. Mario: Developer. I'm passionate about creating gathering places for neighbors to connect.
Is there anything you'd like readers to know? Ellen: In case you didn't realize by now, Mario and I are married. Mario: We are not just trying to sell great sandwiches and salads, we are trying to sell happy! We want to be our guest's favorite restaurant.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.