FIESTA CON MASA TACO KITCHEN
There are few times in life when something comes along that you know deep down is just…well, for lack of a better term…right. When those moments come, not only is it important for us to take time to recognize them, but it’s also equally important to celebrate them. For us, this moment for an “all is right in the universe” celebration came to us by way of a Mexican street taco from newcomers to the Sacramento food scene, Masa Taco Kitchen.
The food was so good that we not only took a moment to celebrate; we took half the day. We set up an entire fiesta. We brought the decor, they brought a few of their signature dishes including their tacos guisado made with handmade tortillas. We partied. We laughed. We broke bread. But more importantly, we all agreed that this was a special moment that we will remember for a long time. Not because of the fiesta itself, but because we were all in the presence of something special.
What you will read below are pieces of the conversations we had during the fiesta with Alex Mishkin, Mercedes Chacon, and Leny Chacon Mishkin of Masa Taco Kitchen.
UH: Okay, let’s start with your influences. Who are some people in the industry or in your circle that you look up to? Why?
Alex: I’d say N’Gina from South. I reached out to her on a whim. I was just kind of googling Sacramento restaurants and South popped up. So, I just went on their website and emailed contact email address and said “Hey, I’m new to this game and town. I’d love to just sit down and pick your brain..” And that really started everything. She’s been really generous with her time and the information she’s given me. She actually led me to Unseen Heroes. She said she started in the same way that we’re kind of starting. They started in the markets, gathered up a lot of steam, and turned into an amazing restaurant in Southside Park. So, I’d say that’s definitely inspiration to me.
Mercedes: I’ve been married for about 14 years, and I don’t work so I stay at home. I love to cook for my kids and everyone is always saying, “oh you always cook good”. So, when Alex invited me to join him, I liked the idea of making food for other people and hearing their opinion. When we did our first event at the Market at Power Inn there was a lot of people waiting for us and I liked that.
Leny: I think I look up to her mom (pointing at Mercedes) and my mom. They’ve been apart of Masa from the beginning. They’re there when we have to go to the commercial kitchen to cook, they’re there all the time. We have family recipes, and you know, it feels good for them to have food from their country. And now, we’re the third generation bringing it back… serving it to Sacramento.
UH: Dope. Speaking of Sacramento, how do you feel about the culture here?
Alex: Sacramento now? I see Oak Park and I see Downtown and the farm to fork movement. I see the grassroots community. I love the support that Sacramentans have for businesses and restaurants that are growing. I think there’s real movement here. It’s very inspiring. It makes me want to be a part of it. Sacramento is also creating a lot of buzz in California and throughout the country. I think the time now is perfect for small businesses to make their mark.
Mercedes: I love Sacramento. It is like a little city that is growing, and at the same time we get to grow with the city.
UH: What have you found most challenging about what you do so far?
Alex: Where do I start? I mean when you’re starting in any industry there’s always a learning curve, and when I think of a business owner I think about someone who is willing to take a risk and me I’m more cautious. Organization. That’s key in this industry. It’s fast paced. At a moment’s notices you get called to some event and you just have to mobilize! Its really being able to adapt, roll with the punches, learning how to be flexible, and take a risk!
UH: Let’s talk about your experience at The Market at Power Inn.
Leny: That was really our launch! That was the big debut. It was the moment that we were sitting around with our entire family, his mom flew in, and her mom came. It was like, “This is our family. And we’re bringing this food to the people of this market, what will they think?” I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first customer. It was so exciting, and then seconds later, there were all these people there in line, waiting for our food! That was incredible.
Alex: I remember I woke up at four in the morning to go into the kitchen and heat up the food. I was the only one there all by myself in the dark kitchen thinking “Oh my god, after six months of work, is this too soon?” It was exciting, it was scary, but it was awesome. We had a great time.
Leny: The one thing I love about The Market at Power Inn is the fact that it gives us the opportunity to serve guisados really how they were meant. This is Mexican street food, it’s usually served at open air markets just like this, and people are coming for lunch on their lunch break. Every kind of person: business people, construction worker, like this is what guisados were meant to be.
UH: And they are DELICIOUS. We could probably eat them everyday for the rest of our lives. If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Mercedes: Seafood. (Laughing)
Leny: I’m gonna say our tacos. One in particular: the mole. What most people don’t really know about mole, is that there are so many different ingredients. It’s really made with love.\
UH: Speaking of “Love”, if you’re kitchen was burning down and you could only can take ONE thing with you, what would you grab? And why?
Mercedes: My knife. It is probably my best tool. A kitchen always needs its good knife.
UH: Why is that?
Mercedes: Well with real Mexican food, you have to have a good knife because the main ingredients are always onions, chile and tomatoes. You have to have a good knife to really cut the vegetables.
UH: Nice. How do you define success?
Mercedes: When I’m rich! (Laughing). But no, I think success is something that happens everyday. Everyday I make food for my husband and he always says that it’s so delicious.
Alex: I think it’s other people that define your success. I think it’s you know, when they recognize and talk about you in a positive way or respect you and what you do. I think that reflects on you the most.
UH: And last, but not least. We talked a little about the long-term goals, but what are your long-term goals, motivations and dreams for Masa Taco Kitchen?
Alex: Well, we want to have our own kitchen, our own restaurant, our own kind of decor just executed with brick and mortar. That is the real dream.
Mercedes: Yes! Some of our customers already ask “Oh, where are you located?”. I want to be able to say “We are located at..” and give them an address.
Until that day comes, you can catch the Masa Taco Kitchen at the Market at Power Inn every Friday from 10am – 2pm, 3009 Power Inn Road or catch them at GATHER: Oak Park on Thursday May 12th from 5pm – 9pm.