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 an 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 in 2008. 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 then launched Tamale Boy as a food truck in 2011.
“The tamale is one of the items that’s most ancient in our culture. Our ancestors used tamales as easily portable food, for hunting trips, and for traveling large distances, as well as supporting their armies. Tamales were also considered sacred as it is the food of the gods. Aztec, Maya, Olmeca, and Tolteca all considered themselves to be people of corn and so tamales played a large part in their rituals and festivals.” says Soltero.
After building an excited following, they opened their first bricks-and-mortar location in 2014 on NE Dekum St and have gone from three employees to forty five. Growth has been steady with a second location on N Russell, but culture and community remain integral. Solterosays, “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
Location: 1764 NE Dekum St, Portland OR 97211