Founder & Owner, Comida Cantina and Food Truck
Women's Studies, 1994
My love of restaurants really started when I was 25 years old. I had gone home to New York City to visit some friends, and three of us went to a restaurant called Gramercy Tavern. It was a Sunday night 18 years ago. I can still remember every course and how we were served. It was the service, the graciousness and ease with which the staff floated around us, making us feel welcome, exceeding every expectation. I was in love.
Boulder has been my home for 23 years. It is where my friends are, my favorite hikes are, and where I cut my teeth in the restaurant business. I knew that people were excited at the thought of something delicious and portable and fun. The Comida Truck is hot pink, her name is Tina and we love to have fun while we serve.
Comida is a combination of flavors I grew up with (Southern mostly…think grits and sweet potatoes) and the flavors I began to crave after many visits to Mexico when my mother was living there. With the truck, the menu had to be simple due to the size of our “kitchen.” I knew that if we were lucky enough to entice people out to office parks where they would then sit on the ground to eat, maybe standing in line while it snowed, that we had to be something special. And the price had to be right. In spite of the costs and time we spent making our recipes, we did our best from the beginning to keep it affordable. It is, after all, street food…not fine dining. I applied the same principles to the Cantinas. As we have grown, I have had some incredible chefs join our ranks and they bring their own level of taste and creativity to the table.
I have done it all. I think it is really important to know all facets of one’s business. I started this way out of necessity. I didn’t have loads of money or high brow investors who were expecting massive payouts. I had good friends who were kind enough to believe in me and I knew I didn’t want to screw it up and lose their hard-earned money. So, I was on the truck every day. I cooked, drove, cleaned, answered emails, did the books and washed the dishes. The first thing I took off my plate was the books. I knew that there was someone much more capable than me who could do this. Plus, I wanted it done right. I have seen too many people go out of business for making bad financial decisions.
Today, I manage my managers. They are amazing. Many of them have worked with me for more than 10 years. I believe in building these relationships and giving them the tools to do their jobs. I do not micromanage. They have a lot of responsibilities, and I believe I support their efforts with a good salary and other benefits like health insurance and paid vacations. Plus, Comida is a fun culture to be a part of. This is critical to our success. Plenty of boundaries and rules, but also fun.
I have done it since the beginning – since I had the truck. We went to the farmers' market when we could. When it makes sense to do local, I believe in doing it–supporting the community and supporting my friends and people I have built relationships over time. There are times when it does not make sense–I wanted to keep prices to a point where they are something people won’t balk at, but I like eating and knowing where my food comes from. We have a house in the mountains and raise chickens, so we have our own eggs and hens. My boyfriend owns one of the companies I work with a lot, Tender Belly, which does all things pork. I asked a purveyor who to get pork from and he said call the Tender Belly guys, I not only started using the best bacon, but also struck up a relationship.
Absolutely, 100% - my formative learning years were at CU-Boulder in early 1990s. There was still that local feel. The farmers' market was here, and I loved going to it.
I was a Women’s Studies major at CU-Boulder. My father was completely beside himself with this choice. What on earth, he thought would I do with a degree in Women’s Studies? We laugh about it now. My degree and the experiences I had at CU-Boulder taught me how to think for myself--to think critically and act accordingly.