A Taste Of Authentic Latin Cuisine
When Alex Rodriguez tasted some of the Latin foods available in Hawaii, he saw a niche to fill. He knew he could create a wider variety of Latin recipes for people to sample at community events.
“I want to introduce different types of Latin food to those who may never have had some of these dishes,” explains Rodriquez, who started Latin Grindz in 2006.
The native of Puerto Rico makes a meat turnover with ground beef called an empanadilla and a seasoned pork dish called pernil, in addition to his chicken rice with pinto beans. He also cooks tostones, which are deep-fried plantains. Rodriguez says a deep-fried pasteles dish called alcapurrias is another popular item.
He says his booth sold out of food both times he was at the Children and Youth Day at the state Capitol, and he’s also been a big hit at Sunset on the Plains in Kapolei, the Taste of Kalihi and the Honolulu Festival.
His wife, Lisa, and their children, Kayla, 17; Justin,12; and Eric, 8, can be found taking orders and filling plates at the booths. At first, he says, it was just the family pitching in at the booth, but once the lines of customers started getting longer and longer, he hired a few more people.
“Preparing for the event is one of the challenges because I need to buy the meat, season it and prepare it in the (Pacific Gateway culinary) kitchen in Kalihi and schedule that around my job,” says Rodriquez, whose day gig has been as a mail carrier for 15 years.
The Ewa Beach resident emphasizes that his last name is spelled with a “z,” as there have been numerous times that people spell it with an “s” instead. In fact, he had to tell the teacher of their children to spell it correctly multiple times. Since he had to stress the “z” in his last name, he decided to spell the company name with a “z.”
Latin Grindz is a member of the Latin Business Association of Hawaii, which was formed last year.
“My ultimate goal is to open a restaurant,” says the entrepreneur. “I will have a regular menu, and I also want to have the flavor of other Latin cuisines. For example, I can have the flavor of Colombia, and we can offer breakfast, lunch and dinner foods of Colombia, including the coffee, juice and beer. Then the next time will be foods of Nicaragua, then Peru and Argentina, and all the Latin countries.”
Rodriguez notes that the community events allow him to introduce these dishes and to see if there is a demand. He believes there is indeed a demand, as he reveals that a lot of people are asking “Where are you going to be next?”
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