What I Do: Angel Jiménez-Gutiérrez, co-owner of Malinche
At Malinche, co-owner Angel Jiménez-Gutiérrez and his associates (which include his mother, head chef María Gutiérrez Molina and co-owner Alejandro Ayala) offer a restrained menu that showcases a different side of Mexican cuisine from the Tex-Mex versions most familiar to American diners. Malinche is the Gutiérrez family’s second restaurant; they closed their first, Señor Pique, in 2017, after 13 years of service. Here, Jiménez-Gutiérrez discusses his family’s decision to pivot from Tex-Mex to a more personal style of cooking and how he shares his knowledge of the industry with other Mexican restaurant owners through his consulting firm, Profundiza.
“I take care of all the administrative tasks. On the operational side, I am the one that usually finishes the plates. My mom, she’s the one that is in charge of the flavors, and then I just try to make them look pretty.”
“When we created [Malinche’s] menu, we were trying to come up with our concept, like, how can somebody come into our restaurant and leave with different flavors? So that’s when everything started, like, well, first of all, let’s not fill them up with chips and salsa, but also give them something, either a sopecito, which is a little appetizer, or a taco de canasta. So we’re already starting your Mexican culinary experience but in a different way.”
“There is this perception that Mexican food should be cheap. But not necessarily – not to me. I want to deliver a product that is not priced high just because. But we spend time on little details that give the diner a higher-quality product, from presentation to the ingredients that we’re using.”
“I went to college – my degree is in accounting. I moved to St. Louis in an attempt to change my life a little bit, to have a sabbatical year and get away from the corporate life that I was starting in Mexico City.”
“I got a job at Hacienda [Mexican Restaurant] and I just fell in love. That’s where I met my wife. We were able to work and save money, and that combination is what gave my wife and I, after two years, the confidence to open our first location.”
“The real school came when we opened our second location because there was a [economic] crisis in 2008. That’s when I truly started to learn the rest of the industry, about cost and how to strategize to keep costs down just to survive.”
“When we were reaching the final years of the lease, I wanted to keep going because I’m the one that is really, really passionate about the restaurant industry. But I noticed that my wife and my mom weren’t too excited about my plans, which was just to change the location and move to a different place. And I was able to respect that.”
“I started doing restaurant consulting, which I am still doing. I only help Mexican restaurants. My approach is how to maximize profits and how to minimize the stress within the restaurant. I help restaurants around here – Illinois, Columbia, Missouri, just within 3- to 4-hour distance.”
“I’m extremely thankful for what Señor Pique meant to us. But there was always something that I wasn’t 100% proud of [with] our menu. … My friends would come to the restaurant, and I would visit the table and ask, ‘So what did you have?’ And they would tell me, ‘Oh, I got the chicken fajitas!’ And inside I’m like, ‘Oh gosh, but you didn’t try my mom’s cooking. You got something Americanized, in a way.’”
“So I said that when we came back, I wanted to serve something that was going to make me feel proud every day of the week. It doesn’t matter what the diner chooses, I was going be able to share a story or part of my culture. Every dish that you see at Malinche is a part of our culture, a dish that I grew up with somehow, that I ate at some point in my childhood. That is our way of sharing our Mexican culture: through our menu.”
“I try to bring a mindful approach into the administration of a restaurant. To me, everything is about being able to be clear within itself. I’m talking about the owner – what is it that he envisions? What is his concept? Document it, set it clear on a piece of paper. And then: How are we going to share this message with the rest of the team?”
“‘Profundiza’ means to go deep. My concept is to go deep in your numbers, go deep in your own person, go deep in your process. Investigate within ourselves and our company before we start pointing and blaming others.”
Malinche, 15939 Manchester Road, Ellisville, 636.220.8514, malinchestl.com
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