Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Alvarez.
Jamie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My husband and I own both Cuba 312 and Taste of Cuba cafe. My husband is Cuban and I am African American and Irish. When we met 15years ago I realized early on that Food is very important aspect of his family and I had to earn my cooking chops in the kitchen elbow to elbow with his aunts who spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish at the time. I realized at that moment that food transcends language. Fast forward through many years of learning, testing out recipes and many phone calls to his aunts in Miami to learn family secret recipes, we decided to open our first restaurant (taste of Cuba cafe) in early 2011. Then 4 years later we decided to branch out and try our hands at modernizing Cuban Cuisine with Cuba 312. Here I’ve taken classic Cuban dishes and transformed them either by utilizing different ingredients or by creating new Cuban dishes using Cuban staple ingredients. However I always stay true to my cooking roots and the traditional dishes that we do well I make sure to maintain on our menus so that it keeps us grounded within the Cuban community! After all I’ve surprised a few Cuban patrons when they learn that I’m not Cuban. I owe my cooking experience and love of food to all the great women (and men) that I’ve been gracious enough to learn from and cook next to. My grandmother played a large part of my love and old school view of food and family and I’ve been blessed with a platform of owning restaurants to try and pass on the traditional view of food being at the center of love in a family.
Has it been a smooth road?
Our first location is in Lincolnwood so it was incredibly easy to open a business. They basically handed us the keys and said “go right ahead!” Once we decided to open in the city it was very different. I was not used to all the permitting and rules that are not easily accessible to navigate as a small business owner. However once we overcame all the necessary red tape we were embraced by the community and their support for us has been outstanding ever since! Which is a God sent because the restaurant industry is already inherently difficult as it is.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
CUBA 312 has become our break out location. A lot of times people assume Cuban food can only be rice, beans and pork and or sweet plantains however we are striving to offer more and in order to really showcase the culture. We have cool dishes like “Castro’s last meal” that is a decedent board of all of our top sellers and “Nachos Cuba Libre” which is nachos made out of fried yuca. We put a lot of effort into each dish and creating recipes and we really hope it shows. We also make sure we use fresh items, my husband is literally at the store every day. I am incredibly excited for the brand that we are creating and hope that we can inspire others to be creative with their cultures food!
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
We actually have first-hand knowledge of operating a business outside of the city and in the city. I would definitely say that Chicago is a great place to own a business. My only advice to anyone starting out is to ask A LOT of questions and be prepared for anything that might come your way. Resilience is key!
- Address: CUBA 312
2054 W.Roscoe st
Chicago, IL 60618
- Website: www.cuba312.com
- Phone: 773-281-2822(CUBA)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org