In Our Backyard - May, 2012

Foodie alert - there’s a new catering company in town. Palisades resident Stephanie Cardenas has fused her Mexican heritage and Texas upbringing into Blue Taco, a homegrown operation featuring healthy farm-to-table Mexican classics with a Texan twist. While her ultimate goal is to create a wholesale line of Tex-Mex products for grocery stores, she currently caters everything from small family dinners to parties for 100 guests. Blue Taco’s complete list of products is on its website, but Cardenas is happy to work with you on whatever menu you may need. On most weekends she also sells a selection of soups, tacos and salsas at the Palisades Indoor Farmer’s Market.

This is not what Cardenas, a 40- year-old former advertising sales executive with almost twenty years experience in the corporate world, expected to be doing in 2012. In 2008, the economic meltdown cost Cardenas her job at Smyth Media Group. To save money she nixed dining out and rediscovered a love of cooking fostered by summers spent with her grandmother in Flatonia, TX. Together they’d made tortillas, rice, beans, tamales, cactus and oatmeal pecan raisin cookies and Cardenas wanted to recreate and improve on some of those recipes. Searching for the best ingredients available, she tapped into local food sources such as Blooming Hill Farm and Stokes Farm. Her new employer Ernie De- LaTorre of DeLaTorre Design, and his partner Kris Haberman (also Palisades residents), became willing guinea pigs as she perfected lighter, fresher versions of the meals she’d grown up with. A three-year internship with Mimi Platas of Mimi’s Plate cemented the deal and just a few months ago, Blue Taco was officially launched. “Everything that I’ve done before has brought me to do this,” says Cardenas who maintains that, while the kitchen is the heart and soul of Blue Taco, it’s necessary to understand all aspects of a business in order to run it well.

She’s not kidding. While volunteering in Mexico, Cardenas worked in a restaurant, prowled around the produce markets and checked out local tortilla factories; educating herself on authenticity and on the farm-to-table process. “From the crop to the kitchen to the customer,” says Cardenas. But the real fun is putting her unique stamp on already familiar dishes. “I was selling other people’s products…now I’m selling me,” she says.

Cardenas’ passionate commitment to her business extends beyond putting a tasty taco in your hand. She believes supporting local farmers by way of the farm-to-table concept incorporated into Blue Taco is a form of social activism. In other words, the more we understand about what we eat and where it comes from, the more likely we are to support local growers and to care about the politics of the food industry. As the company website states, “You are only as good as the food you eat so…Love yourself, eat BLUE TACO.” It’s a noble mission and one that can now be supported right here in our backyard.