¡De qué somos todos!

(What are we all about!)

John Salazar was two years old in 1960, and his family (parents, grandmother and four older siblings) moved from Bogota, Colombia to San Jose, California. In California, Mexican food is as mainstream as hamburgers and hot dogs; Burritos were a part of the school lunch program. While growing up, it was easy to take the quality and availability of Mexican food for granted.

Over the next ten years, John’s three eldest siblings immigrated to Vancouver; and in 1975, John, his parents and his remaining sister joined them, reuniting the family. It didn’t take long for them to realize that the Mexican food offerings in Vancouver weren’t even close to what they remembered from San Jose.

John’s eldest sister, Yolanda, spent some time in Mexico City and learned how to prepare several delicious dishes. So a few times a year she’d take it upon herself to dedicate entire weekends to cooking everything from scratch, preparing Mexican feasts for the whole family. Those dinners quickly became a tradition that everyone looked forward to.

At the dinners, a reoccurring joke would come up about how they needed to open a Mexican restaurant so they could enjoy the food they loved – anytime – and they wouldn’t even have to wash the dishes, as there would be a Dishwasher.

John’s father was an Entrepreneur and had his own businesses in San Jose and Vancouver; he always had the dream of having a family business with all the kids involved. With the need for good Mexican food, he kept his ear to the ground for restaurants for sale. When he’d hear of one, he’d call everyone to arrange a viewing with the owner. Over the next five years, the family saw perhaps a half dozen restaurants, none of which inspired John enough to raise his hand at the vote. They were either too big, too small, or too far off-the-beaten-path.

But in the summer of 1980, they viewed a Spanish restaurant for sale on 4th Avenue in Vancouver. Fourth Avenue is a major artery that cuts through Kitsilano, an area known for its down-to-earth (post Hippie) culture, dining, live music and artisans. John finally saw things he liked: the busy street, the local culture and a corner location. Facing the Southwestern sky meant lots of sunshine with the Spanish décor a definite bonus. He raised his hand at the vote, and for the first time, the outcome was unanimous. They finally made an offer to purchase a restaurant, and it was accepted.

The Salazar family opened Las Margaritas Mexican Restaurant on September 18, 1980. The following year, they expanded and put in: a new kitchen, public washrooms, an office and a warehouse for all the imported goods. To help with office tasks, they bought their first computer in 1981 – An “Apple II”, which came with 48k of RAM with an expansion board of another 16k – 64k total, but no mouse (it wasn’t invented yet). Taking advantage of having a PC, John purchased a copy of Microsoft “Multi-Plan”, which later evolved into “Excel”, and used it for recipe costing, scheduling, tip-pool, POS lookup indexes, and even the phone list.

John spent the next twelve years working the restaurant – the last ten years as the General Manager. In 1992, John decided to leave the “Wet-Coast” to follow the sun and moved to Kelowna with his wife, daughter and son. For two years he would call in to direct the Management on a daily basis. But knowing this arrangement was not the ideal way to run a business, the family decided to sell the restaurant while it was still wildly successful and going strong with lineups.

Over the next seven years in Kelowna, John worked as a Graphic Designer using a Macintosh computer at a commercial printer. Photoshop and professional graphic-design software were available only on the Macintosh platform. John was appointed Network Administrator to oversee the rollout of a network with eight PCs and a server for the printer’s office functions. He then decided to take an IT course & certification to complement his new role. After the network rollout, John continued doing graphic design. At one point, the company sent John to Spokane in a sales capacity for several weeks to explore that market; and he would pass through Grand Forks en route.

A fellow student from the IT course called John in 2006 and asked if he’d consider applying as a TSR (Technical Service Rep), as the company he worked for needed a “Mac-head” to help customers with Macintosh computers. He was hired, and after three years as a TSR, John moved into the Tech-Ops (Technical Operations) department to work in the field. He felt doing physical work was healthier than sitting for 8 hours in front of a monitor. John became a Field Technician and Installer, and was “living the dream”. Ten years went by and John’s children had grown up and moved out. After 27 years, Kelowna no longer had the small-town feel he enjoyed when raising his kids. He noticed a job posting for the Installer position in Grand Forks, the town he fondly remembered in his travels. He applied for the transfer.

In March 2016, John moved to Grand Forks to do installations for Shaw – from Christina Lake to Midway. Two years later, a buy-out was offered with a two-year structure. This gave him the opportunity to keep working while dusting off old skillsets to start a Mexican food truck. Opening and running a Mexican restaurant, graphic design for logo, menu, kitchen layout and technical drawings, spreadsheets for menu development, costing and testing. It was a two-year project to get the truck ready to go, including getting all the permits and licenses, establishing systems and procedures, and testing, testing, testing. After four years in Grand Forks, John removed the ladders from his truck, hung up his tool-belt, and officially changed hats.

The Las Chimichangas Mexican Food Truck went out for the first time in June 30, 2020.

This allowed John to once again enjoy the food he loves, and now make it available to everyone. In warmer weather, you will find his truck parked at various locations in Grand Forks and the area. And when it’s too cold to eat outside, an order can be placed online, and it will be freshly-prepared and delivered the next day. Bake in your own hot oven and enjoy your selections at your table. John is delighted to bring his family’s Mexican-feast tradition to you, here in Grand Forks. Buen provecho!

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