Today Jaime Soltero Jr. operates one of the most sought-after Mexican cuisine companies in Portland. However, growing up as a first-generation Mexican-American in the Northwest, Soltero had a hard time recognizing authenticity in the cuisine.
Soltero worked in his parents’ Mexican restaurants where he learned firsthand about the food service business, but it wasn’t until he took trips to Mexico as a adult that Soltero learned in depth. He came to understand that the Mexican cuisine that was commonly available in the states during his youth was a result of limited access to traditional ingredients. Authentic Mexican cuisine and traditional practices became important to his approach.
“I really wanted to try to educate the Northwest on what true Mexican food is,” says Soltero. When he returned to Portland he founded Mayahuel Catering with Abel Hernandez, a chef from Veracruz, Mexico. Mayahuel, an Aztec and Mayan goddess of food and nutrition, aptly represented their intent. They started out small, catering out of his family’s restaurant. They launched Tamale Boy as a food truck in 2011.
“The tamale is one of the items that’s most ancient in our culture. It was something you could pack in your bag and go for days,” says Soltero. After building an excited following, they opened their first bricks-and-mortar location in 2014 and have gone from three employees to thirty. Growth has been steady with a second location in the works, but culture and community remain integral. Soltero says, “We know we can’t beat grandma’s tamales, but for us it’s very much about community and putting our best foot out the door.”
Industry: Food & Beverage
Business Stage: XXX
Location: 1764 NE Dekum St, Portland OR 97211