Nonprofit Incubator Teaches Low-Income Women to Build Restaurant Businesses The story of one La Cocina graduate and her quest to cook up authentic Mexican tastes.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The Startup: El Huarache Loco in Larkspur, Calif., serves authentic Mexican street food cooked the same way Veronica Salazar's family has prepared it for nearly half a century in Mexico City. Salazar graduated from La Cocina's nonprofit incubator kitchen, which each year accepts up to 12 businesses run by low-income and immigrant women, teaches them how to develop a company and offers subsidized commercial kitchen space.
What It Is: A kitchen-prep veteran, Salazar was eager to be chief cook and bottle washer of her own establishment, one that would provide a bona fide Mexican dining experience. She opened her 38-seat restaurant in March 2012, after first building her brand through a catering business and a stand at San Francisco's Alemany Farmers' Market. "Most of the Mexican street-food restaurants, the owners are American. They know the Mexican food, but they don't have the flavor," says Salazar, who worked in her family's restaurant and brought the secret recipes with her when she came to San Francisco in 1996.
Though she offers a full range of dishes, Salazar focuses on huaraches, corn masa cakes with beans and other toppings. Early on at the food stand, Salazar's customers requested burritos; she declined. "I don't want to be Taco Bell," she says. "[People] ask me for nachos with cheese and sour cream. We don't make that in Mexico City. I make the food with the same ingredients that my family uses."