About us and our history
May 10, 2016, I still remember that date as if it was yesterday. “Carnitas El Güero” had not even crossed my mind yet. I had the notion of how to make Carnitas but, I still had no idea that 7 months later I was going to create what today is the brand and restaurants of “Carnitas El Güero”.
I had just arrived in this country and had no idea what it was like to live in the United States. With many complications and a family to support, I started my working life with the first job of my life, since in Mexico I had always had small food businesses of tamales, seafood, churros and more, but I had not had the opportunity (if we can call it “opportunity”) to be an employee.
My first job in this country was as a furniture LOADER in a company called Rooms to go. You can’t imagine, but it was one of the hardest and most hated jobs I ever had. Check in was at 5am and check out depended on the time we finished unloading the last piece of furniture from the trailer we were assigned for the day. Some days were few but 98% of the time there were so many that it took forever.
I asked my boss, who had been working in that company for more than 10 years, if he didn’t hate his job, and at the time he told me: you are crazy, my father taught me this and I do it with pleasure. It crossed my mind to tell him if it was a joke or if he was crazy, but I stopped to think a little and my only answer was: let’s continue with what was pending.
After that at the end of the workday I immediately started looking for another job in a list of a page called craigslist that was the fashion at that time to sell items, cars and offer work to people. I immediately found one that said I WANTED A DRIVER FOR A FOOD TRUCK. I immediately contacted and was able to make an appointment with the owner of that truck for the next day. The next day. It seemed that he was very urgent, and so was I, to change jobs no matter what.
I arrived on time for my appointment. 7am, bathed, perfumed and very happy to have found that opportunity, which was very useful for me, because I met the man who is now one of my best cooks in my restaurants. Chuy, El Fresh, which is what I call him. Why El Fresh, because he always told me: this food is always Freshhhh! hahaha, seriously I am writing this and you do not know how many good memories of those moments, so many stories I could tell but I would need a book of many pages to tell them.
In the United States, alone and with a family to bring as soon as possible to my side, one job was not enough to raise the money to make it. The Fresh, as I tell you, got my second day job in the day. A position hated by many but necessary for me. At that time I still didn’t know English so we’ll call him “dishwasher”. They had never seen a dishwasher faster than me, so I only lasted one day in that position at that very American place called STUBBS BBQ. I was so fast and effective that my direct boss immediately promoted me to another position called “brisket cutter” that’s where I got a knife experience like nowhere else I’ve ever held one in my hands.
Well, with my two jobs I was able to bring my family from Mexico City to Austin TX, rent an apartment and buy my first car in the United States. A truck that they wouldn’t give five dollars for it, but for me it was an indispensable tool to be able to get to my jobs and take my family around. What more could I have wished for at that time than that Voyager van that I had a few months ago, because you don’t know, but I got to sleep a few times outside the gas stations as a “homeless” as they call there to those who have no place to live. But I tell you something, I still remember and enjoy that pain and sadness that I felt because it helps me not to forget where I came from and to know where I am going. I remember it and my eyes fill with tears and I take more courage to continue on this hard road of entrepreneurship.
One day I wake up and tell my wife, I can’t stand being someone’s employee anymore. Right now I am going to look for a kitchen or some place where I can cook and sell something. I don’t want to continue being an employee of anyone, much less of a “gringo”.
I crossed the street, which was in front of the apartments where we lived, to go buy a coffee at a convenience store called Stassney Food Mart, which is the store of a Texaco gas station. As I was pouring my coffee, I turned to see the store’s kitchen to see what I could buy to eat, since at that moment I was so hungry that it seemed like two. Well, as you may know, there was only Kentucky style fried chicken, burritos and potatoes, obviously all defrosted and fried as is the custom of my “gringo” friends. At that moment I stopped to think and I said…: mmmmmmm this is a Hispanic neighborhood and they sell that? I think my countrymen don’t like that style, unless they are already used to it. But I said “naaa” I don’t think so, even if that’s all there is, I wouldn’t get used to it. Well, I said, I think some good tacos would stick here, that’s real food for us!!!
When I paid for my coffee and a Bimbo sweet bread, of course, I asked the cashier if they didn’t rent the kitchen, to which he replied that he didn’t know and that he would have to check with his boss. I immediately asked him who he was and he told me his name is Sohil and you will find him early tomorrow morning.
I went on with my normal work day, but it was not, because all day I spent the whole day thinking about how I could get them to rent that kitchen and sell something, because I still did not get the idea of carnitas at that time. It was when I was on my way back home, tired and hungry that I said!!! some carnitas! !!!! At some point my wife and I were talking in Mexico City and I said that imagine putting some carnitas in the United States, it would be a hitazo!!!! and well….
lotería!!! it came to my mind to make carnitas in that kitchen and sell them.
I quickly got home to tell my wife about the idea and we immediately understood that it was a good idea to set up carnitas there as if it were a Cdmx type stand. I couldn’t sleep well all night because of the excitement and how I was going to explain it to the Indian man in charge of the store because, obviously, he had no idea what it was like. It was a big task to explain to him in detail what our idea was to sell carnitas there.
At 7 a.m. the next day, a week after the opening of Carnitas El Güero,
talking with Sohil, the Indian, a very big problem came to my mind: I had no money to rent the kitchen, I don’t know how I kept thinking about a business without even having the money to set one up. Well that’s what I call faith.
I told Sohil my problem and he quickly told me, don’t worry, let’s do something, I don’t charge you rent but you are going to give me 20% of the total sales you make and with the rest you buy all the supplies you need… and that’s how this great story began.
Don’t think that everything was rosy from that moment on, there were some inconveniences and I wanted to go and throw my dipper and my knife in the middle of the interstate highway. And you know why, because I couldn’t sell a damn thing. It was so hard to sell carnitas there, I was about to close about 50 times, but there was something inside me that told me: don’t do it, you have a family to support and two jobs that you gave up. So there was no turning back, as of December 17, 2016 the word give up ceased to exist in my vocabulary. Now we already have 6 Restaurants and about to open the 7th in my neighborhood and hometown. Mexico City.
Want some good advice? Never let anyone tell you that you can’t, especially if you don’t have the money. You can make a good business, even if you only have a pen and a piece of paper to be able to shape your project.
Gustavo Reyes “El Güero”.