Richard Hinojosa is the co-founder and executive chef of CRUjiente Tacos, a modern taqueria with an inventive interpretation of Mexican street tacos located in Phoenix. CRUjiente Tacos marks a meaningful milestone for this classically-trained chef’s career as his first business adventure outside of the luxury hotel world.
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
First job: My very first job was cleaning a computer sales and repair store that my father worked at on the weekends, I believe I was 10 years old. My first job that started my culinary career was a serving job at a restaurant called Barbados in San Antonio. This is where I began to learn about food and beverage service and I absolutely loved working at Barbados. This job led me to a restaurant on the San Antonio Riverwalk called The Bayous. The Bayous was a pretty special place for me. This is where I got my start into bartending and management. Most importantly, it is where I met my wife, Amy. We have been married for 17 years this April and have two beautiful daughters.
Favorite AZ restaurant: This is difficult; there are so many great restaurants in Arizona. Little Miss BBQ is one. I grew up in Texas, so of course, I love good barbecue and Little Miss reminds me of how we do barbecue in Texas, I love it! My other favorite restaurant in Phoenix is probably Yasu Sushi Bistro. I take or send all of my out-of-town chefs and foodie friends there and the food is so well executed and outstanding!
Person who has impacted your life the most: I have been blessed with many amazing people in my life that have impacted and inspired me: my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my sister, my wife, several of my prior managers and chefs. My parents have had the greatest impact on me and who I have become. My father, who is an amazing man, highly intelligent, extremely patient and the hardest worker I have ever known. My mother is an incredible woman, she taught me to never take no for an answer, to go after your dreams and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. If you want it bad enough, and are willing to work hard enough — you can do whatever you want. These two have shaped who I am as a professional, as well as who I am as a husband and a father.
Your biggest accomplishment in your eyes: When I was 18 years old, I took my first-ever hospitality job and I immediately fell in love with this business. I spent the next 24 years learning as much as I possibly could about service, business, cooking, food, personnel management, cocktails, wine, and on and on. The 24 years of learning and hard work finally paid off. My amazing business partner and great friend, Jason Morris and I opened up CRUjiente Tacos, to date, is my greatest accomplishment.
The biggest obstacle you have overcome: As much as one can plan, and try and map out life and careers, there are always wrong turns. I took a wrong turn that led to another wrong turn before getting back on the right path. I was taught to try and find the positive and the lesson in every situation, so I did. I took a couple of positions that were not good fits for me, they were a couple of very tough and very dark years. I looked for the learning situations in these jobs, and took those lessons and moved on. I learned a lot from these places, and luckily it only cost me a couple of years.
Someone who inspires you: My wife and daughters inspire me everyday. I couldn’t ask for a better family, my wife has so much Aloha – love, peace, compassion — she would do anything for anyone in need. This is getting passed on to my daughters, they are such sweet kids, and they have aspirations to change the world! This inspires me to try to be the best I can be everyday.
Favorite quote: “Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance” — Bruce Barton
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: There are two pieces of advice that I would give to people that are starting a career in cooking. First, don’t be in such a hurry to be famous or to be the chef. There are so many facets to being a chef, it is not only cooking or making cool YouTube videos. It is a craft, an art form and business. Take the time to learn the craft, work for chefs and restaurants that will teach you about food and technique. At some point you will learn enough about techniques to begin creating food and expressing your own style.
The second piece of advice is that this industry is vast. Take the time to find the area of it that truly speaks to your heart. This is a very tough business, in order to sustain a career in the culinary field, you must be truly passionate about it and find a way to put your soul into the work you are creating.
What makes someone fabulous: I think everyone is blessed with some sort of gift, so I think everyone has some fabulous in them. If you can find that one thing that you are extraordinary at and passionate about and share it with the world, it’s exciting, it’s inspiring and it makes you fabulous!
To learn more about Richard Hinojosa’s restaurant CRUjiente Tacos, visit crutacos.com.