Luz Hernandez keeps cooking for the valley by accident.
While she and her family owned a variety of Mexican restaurants in western Canada, she never meant to start feeding customers here. She wasn’t sure the community was large enough to support a Mexican-food offering and was content to spend her days with her four children.
But one night the Canal Flats resident prepared a dinner as part of the local supper club in Canal Flats. There her authentic Mexican cooking was so well received – and everyone’s bellies so eager for more – that she tried doing a pop-up restaurant.
When she closed the doors, she said “a lot of people missed the food.”
A friend begged her to keep cooking and negotiated with Ms. Hernandez, offering to provide all the ingredients, the kitchen and the guests for a Mexican feast. All Ms. Hernandez had to do was prepare the food at her friend’s home and join the party.
Preparing the food can be stressful for any host, Ms. Hernandez said, but it doesn’t rattle her in the least. It’s actually her passion.
“I enjoy seeing people love the food and savouring it,” she said. “The best way I can have a thank you is just seeing their happy face and their enjoyment of the food.”
That fiesta, with its food, frivolity and fun, left Ms. Hernandez wondering if the valley would welcome her into their kitchens for more taco parties. The answer was a resounding yes, and her new business, Su Casa Mexican Chef Services, has been joining parties all over the valley.
For $100 (discounted from the regular rate of $150 for any bookings that come in before January 1st), she provides her clients with a shopping list and then arrives at their homes three hours before their parties are scheduled to begin. She chops their ingredients and cooks and fills the home with tastes to make any mouth water while the host relaxes or primps or lingers in the kitchen in amazement.
Instead of cooking themselves and hoping the meal will come out OK, she said the hosts get to relax.
“They are just there to enjoy themselves,” she said.
By the time the guests arrive, she said they immediately start commenting on how delicious everything smells and how excited they are to grab a plate.
“Everything is made at the spot – homemade from scratch,” she said. “You’re eating a taco right out of the pan.”
When Jamie Corpuz celebrated her birthday with a Su Casa taco party at her home near Fairmont, she said Ms. Hernandez put her at ease and added an extra level of fun and excitement to the evening.
“Several of my guests watched in awe as tortilla chips and taco shells were made from scratch right in front of them,” she said. “Everyone was impressed with the quality, taste, professionalism and the experience of an in-house chef dinner party.”
Ms. Hernandez interacted with her guests and kept the tacos coming until everyone was satiated and bursting at the seams. And then she tidied the kitchen back up, leaving Ms. Corpuz to chat with her company.
“I get a lot of compliments,” Ms. Hernandez said. “People are open to spicy, to authentic and to new ideas.”
Ms. Hernandez’s and her husband came to the Columbia Valley on their honeymoon and were so awed by the scenery that they imagined themselves raising a family here. A decade later they came back with their children.
Ms. Hernandez, who was born in Mexico, bases her meals on family recipes. When her grandmother was widowed, her mother – who was only seven years old – was given the responsibility of cooking for the family. Ms. Hernandez’ mother learned how to cook from her great-grandmother, but was on her own in the kitchen a few years later when the older woman passed away.
“Anything I serve originated from my mom,” Ms. Hernandez said. “I’m very proud and very grateful that my mom has passed this down to us.”
Also grateful are her clients and their guests.
Ms. Hernandez is now offering cooking classes too, where she will come to her clients’ homes with all the ingredients and teach her students how to make their own meal so they can enjoy the work of their hands.
“You will end up eating your creations, which is really cool,” she said.
Those classes are currently discounted to $65 a person for six to 15 guests.
In addition to her taco parties, Ms. Hernandez offers enchilada parties, chile rellenos (stuffed pepper) parties and specialty party packages that can come with any Mexican dish. Vegan and gluten-free options are available.
With many of her weekends booked, Ms. Hernandez joked that her “social life has really upgraded” now that she’s getting invited to everyone’s parties.
To find out more or to book a party, visit her website at https://luzadrianahm.wixsite.com/sucasamexicanchef.