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From Food Service to Fresh Mex
by Janine Kearney - jkearney@dailysparkstribune.com
Jan 18, 2008 | 1086 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jesus Gutierrez is living proof that the right attitude, education and determination can work wonders.

Gutierrez, who lived in Sparks during high school, is now owner of Fresh Mex restaurant and a Sparks Chamber of Commerce member.

Hard work, customer service, and a great product are keys to being successful in business, Gutierrez learned as he worked his way up from casino dishwasher to small business owner.

“When you have a dream, no one is going to stop you from accomplishing your dream,” Gutierrez said.

“It can come true, if you have the right attitude and the right people behind you. You need to stay positive and with any decisions you make, just let them flow — and be who you are. Customer service and staying focused on the product you

provide for the customer are important.”

His road to success began in Sparks, where he lived and worked in 1986, during his senior year at Hug High School. He was hired by John Ascuaga’s Nugget as a part-time dishwasher. At the time, he was also working full-time in sanitation services at the Eldorado Hotel-Casino.

Gutierrez worked at the Nugget from 1986 to 1990 in various functions, from dishwashing to banquet services, in the bakery and with the butcher.

“The Nugget was a good training ground for myself and my brother, Gerado,” Gutierrez said. “They gave us the opportunity to learn in the kitchen and outside of the kitchen — and how to set up banquets.”

Gutierrez worked at the Eldorado full-time from 1985 to 1995 in various functions — from dishwasher and overall sanitation, to prep cook and sous chef, all the way up to restaurant chef.

Gutierrez worked at the Silver Legacy from 1995 to 2005, where he worked his way up to become one of the restaurant chefs dealing with restaurant operations, management and personnel at the Victorian Buffet.

While Jesus and Gerado both worked for the Nugget, Eldorado and Silver Legacy, they began talking about what it would be like to run their own restaurant.

“That was our vision, to do something for the community,” Jesus said. “We started talking about this six or seven years ago, but the timing wasn’t there yet. We started connecting with the small business center.”

Jesus attended a few culinary arts classes at Truckee Meadows Community College. Then the brothers received assistance from the Nevada Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. At the center, anyone can receive free business coaching and learn about researching neighborhoods, specific businesses, signs, customer service and personnel ideas.

“Then the financials were in order and the opportunity came here for Fresh Mex,” he said.

The Gutierrez brothers opened Fresh Mex at 5th Street and Keystone Avenue in Reno in May 2005, and it now employs four people plus the two brothers.

“We wanted to do something different than everyone else,” Gutierrez said.

They wanted to use fresh, organic food that reminded them of their hometown in Mexico, Gutierrez said. Some of their specialties and most popular menu items include fish tacos, sour cream enchilladas, Michoacan chicken, carnitas, cactus salad and spicy tacos.

“We make them every day fresh,” he said. “When you want to think of something fresh, you think of your hometown,” he said.

Leon-Gto. is their hometown in Mexico — where chicken and the ingredients to make salsa are abundant.

“There are a lot of chickens running around in our town,” he said. “And we used to make our own cheese in our hometown.”

The Michoacan chicken is made with roasted peppers, tomatoes and onions. For their carnitas, “we braise them often, so they’re juicy. and we use chunks of meat. At other restaurants, the meat is kind of dry and the aromas and flavors kind of go away,” Gutierrez said.

He said quality products and good customer service define Fresh Mex from other Mexican restaurants in the area. Fresh Mex’s tacos were recently named the number one taco from a non-franchised restaurant by the Reno Gazette-Journal.



“A lot of vegetarian people come here for the cactus salad and for our famous burritos,” he said. “We use different kinds of tortillas: spinach, whole grain, jalepeno cheddar. People who are watching their weight can find good things here.”

Fresh Mex also offers catering and personal chef services, including consulting services beforehand.

“We cater to all of these offices in our neighborhood,” Gutierrez said.

As the owner of a small business, Gutierrez works in just about every part of the operation — from greeting customers, to cooking and managing inventory.

Gutierrez said membership in a chamber of commerce is a good idea for small business owners. He is a member of the Sparks Chamber of Commerce, Reno-Sparks Chamber and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“The Sparks Chamber is very motivated in helping the small businesses around town,” Gutierrez said.

Through his membership with the Sparks Chamber, other business owners have learned about his business and are stopping by to try the food.

“It’s been a very good location,” Gutierrez said. “The people in the community have been very supportive. If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you.”

During his sparse free time, Gutierrez likes to mentor children. He is a board member for the Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada and he also participates in several career fairs throughout the Washoe County School District.

“It’s very interesting,” he said. “I reach out to younger kids and teach them some culinary arts as part of my free time. I’m going around to different schools giving talks about culinary arts at Shaw Middle School in Spanish Springs and Billinghurst Middle School in Reno.”

At Shaw Middle School, Gutierrez led the students in a hands-on cooking demonstration where they cooked pastries, vegetables and poultry.

“We’d like to give more opportunities to the people of the community to learn how to cook and manage a restaurant,” he said.

Fresh Mex is located at 985 W. Fifth St. at Keystone, and is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information about catering services, please call 322-6866.
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From Food Service to Fresh Mex by Janine Kearney - jkearney@dailysparkstribune.com


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