Hilton college graduate helps launch first Central Taco taquería in U.S.
Conrad N. Hilton College graduate Beatriz Aja launched the first United States location of a restaurant chain that originated in Mexico.
With more than 30 years of recognition in Mexico City, Central Taco brings authentic taquería flavors to Houston foodies.
“Central Taco is different, because it is not Tex-Mex food,” Aja said. “It is real Mexican food with no stuffing, letting the flavors of the meat show.”
Despite not knowing the language when she immigrated with her family to the U.S. at 13, Aja has come a long way.
“When I got here, I didn’t know any English,” Aja said. “It was very difficult, but I learned it the hard way. There was no other way.”
After high school she attended Lone Star College, where she received her associate degree in arts in 2010. She graduated from UH Summa Cum Laude and at the same time received her Baking and Pastry Associates from the Art Institute in May 2013.
Before becoming general manager of Central Taco, she received her Culinary Arts certificate in May.
As general manager, Aja has been involved in every step of the process. She is in charge of hiring and training staff and ensuring that the restaurant complies with all food service regulations.
Aja said that preserving the authentic flavors was a bit challenging when building and adjusting recipes.
“When you bring your recipes from Mexico some ingredients change a lot in taste,” Aja said. “So you have to fix them to get the authentic taste of Mexican food.”
Despite encountering new challenges every day, Aja said that being a general manager has been a rewarding experience.
“Whether the food shipment came wrong (or) employees got sick and I have to cover their shift, keeping within the budget and meeting the sales is challenging,” Aja said, “but seeing the customers leave with the biggest smile and being grateful is definitely the best part.”
With her experience in baking and pastries, Aja also plans to expand the dessert menu for Central Taco, letting flavors shine in each dessert.
“We are thinking of doing our homemade flan, a home made tres leches,” Aja said. “And a sandwich flan, which is a vanilla cake with cajeta, a traditional Mexican caramel like sauce with nuts.”
Jose Antonio Gonzalez, co-owner of Central Taco, said that opening the first restaurant in the U.S. would not had been possible without Aja as general manager.
“This woman in amazing,” Gonzalez said. “Without a doubt, the best of the University of Houston is here.”
You can learn more about Central Taco, which is located in the Portofino Shopping Center in The Woodlands, by visiting centraltaco.com.