Reyna and Maritza Vazquez
Hailed as serving one of the best tacos in America by the Food Network and gaining attention from celebrity chef Rachel Ray, Eater Magazine, and the New York Times, today, the Global Spotlight Magazine talks with business owners and chefs Reyna and Maritza Vazquez. Beginning from a truck selling smoothies and snacks, their company, Veracruz All Natural is a trailblazer at the forefront of the Austin, TX food scene.
Take us to the beginning of the Hot Tacos story
We grew up in Veracruz, Mexico. Our mother, Mama Reyna, had a “fonda” in our home growing up (home restaurant) and we would help her in the kitchen. We learned to cook from our mother and grandmother, and some recipes we use in Veracruz All Natural are passed down from them. Other recipes are inspired by them and our hometown of Veracruz.
We learned from our mother to be strong and vigilant. We saw her work hard to have her own restaurant, and when we moved to Austin, we wanted to do the same. We didn’t want to work for anyone else, and we wanted to be successful, not only because it was our dream to own and run our own restaurant, but because we wanted to be able to take care of our mother.
What specific struggles do female, immigrant business owners and chefs face in a primarily white and male-dominated industry?
In the U.S. there are certain foundations to the way our society runs. Yes, immigrants have always been a part of our society, but often immigrants, women, and immigrant women are viewed by large portions of the population as occupying a specific “place” in society. This matters in business. Our husbands are often assumed to be the owners of Veracruz All Natural because they are white males. Other times, even if other business owners or restaurant owners know we are the owners, they still end up talking more to our husbands. We don’t assume that any of this is malicious, although in some circumstances it may be. We assume that it is just part of our society and that we have the special opportunity to be examples of successful immigrant women business owners to show others that anything is possible.
One of my favorite aspects of your business, besides the food, of course, is your Counter Stories blog. How did you begin this, why are these narratives important to you and your company?
Culture is part of our food. Family is a part of our food. Heritage is part of our food. Being women is part of our food. You can’t separate these important characteristics from our business. It is part of the identity of Veracruz All Natural. Our Counter Stories blog is meant to marry both counter (kitchen) stories with counter narratives, or narratives that push against mainstream narratives about women, Latinas, immigrants, and so on.
We hope that in the future we will have more time to bring many more narratives to our Counter Stories blog. We have so many more stories to tell. Some of our employees have been with the business since we started and therefore are also part of Veracruz’s identity. We feel strongly that Veracruz All Natural represents more than just good food, but dreams coming true, immigrants achieving success, women being seen as peers in a male-dominated taquero scene, principles of family coming before money and fame, and other things.
Congratulations on the grand opening of your Los Angeles truck, Hot Tacos! How did you tailor this menu to the tastes of the local food scene, while also maintaining the authenticity and flavor that you are known for?
This is a great question, and one that we have been seeking to answer for years now. Our goal in opening Hot Tacos in LA was both to overcome the challenge of being successful in a city where
there are already so many delicious tacos and at the same time filling a gap, we saw in taco style. After many trips, we saw an opportunity for success bringing Veracruz style tacos to LA and breakfast tacos. Breakfast tacos are a staple of Austin, but not really a thing in LA… yet.
We brought a few menu items from Veracruz All Natural to Hot Tacos, but the menu is different because the city is different. We had to bring a variation of our migas taco because that is what we are known for, and we brought our fish taco because we noticed most LA taquerias served battered fish tacos, not grilled.
Our concept is also different. Specifically, once customers have placed an order their taco will be ready in less than 5 minutes! In Austin, if there is ever a criticism of Veracruz All Natural, it is that orders sometimes take a bit to be ready. We’ve always been constrained in kitchen space in our Austin locations which has caused wait times to be long sometimes. In LA we designed our menu and our kitchen layout for speedier order turnaround times.
The aesthetic is also different for Hot Tacos; different name, different logo, different colors. What remains the same, though, is delicious food of the highest quality prepared Veracruz style.
What major issues would you like to see changed within the industry?
Opportunities in the U.S. are not fair for everyone. We speak from experience. At times we were extremely frustrated about what we had to do, compared to others, to start and run our business. However, you can’t let that stop you. Our mindset is that with hard work and perseverance great things can happen.
Austin is changing so much right now, and it is the rich and powerful that are buying up most of the vacant lots to build up the high rises and condos. We were able to buy a lot in East Austin a little over a year ago after trying for over 2 years because we kept being outbid by others, many of them investors from outside of the state. More opportunities and legislation need to be passed to protect and give opportunities to small business owners to start businesses and succeed. Period.
And finally, a message to your customers, longtime and new?
Only that we feel like the luckiest, most blessed people on this earth because we are living our dream. We are so grateful to our customers who support us by eating our food and listening to our stories. We are very excited for the future. There is always room for growth. We’re not talking growth in terms of locations, although that can be important, but growth in our business in other aspects, new ways of communication and interaction, new recipes, new methods of service, and so much more. There are so many possibilities.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT. WE LOOK FORWARD TO BRINGING YOU THE VOICE OF MORE INSPIRING ARTISTS AND CHANGEMAKERS IN 2021.
Interview conducted and written by Naomi Segal