You would be forgiven for thinking that moving from the sunshine of LA to the rainy dreariness of England is an unfair trade, but for Michelle it was the catalyst that started it all.
After finding herself in an unfulfilling and stressful hospitality job, she decided to pack it in and start her own food truck, bringing some of that LA street food culture that she loved so much, across the pond to England. A lifelong love for the cuisine, along with support from those nearest and dearest to her, made Mexican cuisine a no brainer and Michelle’s passion is poured into everything that she does.
How did it all begin?
It all began over 50 years ago when I moved from Hollywood to Burbank. My best friends were a Mexican family who lived four houses away from me. My love for Mexican food began then! I moved to the U.K. about 20 years ago and found myself in a super stressful hospitality job, but I had always wanted to introduce the Los Angeles ‘food truck culture’ to England, so I did! I left that stressful job and one week late, Mexicali was born.
Why Mexican cuisine?
Mexican cuisine has always been my favourite, influenced by Ma (Mrs. Barroso)! There was never a doubt in my mind that the U.K. was missing out on some serious goodness. Mexican food is such a crowd pleaser, fresh, healthy, super tasty and suitable for most dietary requirements.
What do you like most about working in this industry?
There are many things about the industry that I like, first and foremost the people! I have met some of the most amazing people in the most random of locations! The truck chit chat is what puts a smile on my face daily. In this industry you have a lot of flexibility which enable you to incorporate work even with what I like and enjoy in my free time. For example, in Rugby we traded at Saracens pre-covid and that was one of the highlights for Mexicali. Let it be known it was tough to concentrate on the task at hand when Elliot was scoring! However, the little kids by far are my favourite and their chat is absolutely priceless. Throughout the years several of those cuties have bout me homemade gifts, you can imagine how darling they are, which are proudly on display in the truck.
If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be?
Simply put; more diversity and more women in business.
How do you market your business and attract new customers?
Social media is a huge marketing tool, as is word of mouth; it spread like wildfire! The tuck it’s is ‘Day of the Dead’ themed so it attracts a lot of attention when we are out and about!
How important are the staff that work within your business and do you have any tips on how to retain people?
My team are the A team. I treat them like internal guests and I give them the knowledge and tools they need to succeed at whatever tasks are at hand. We have an ‘open door’ policy and are honest and open with each other regarding what we can do to always strive to be the best.
What was the biggest challenge that you overcame in 2022?
2022 was a great year for Mexicali and we upgraded to a bigger truck! However, it was a huge challenge sourcing the truck as we had several requirements that we would not compromise on. Rejigging the business plan post covid was another challenge, however with such a large customer base (as we are in our tenth year) we were blessed and have more business than ever!
What are you most looking forward to in 2023?
As always, meeting new people. We have lots of upcoming events across the country and some of the locations are breath taking, such as Blenheim Palace; lovely view from the office!
What one piece of advice would you give your younger self before starting this venture?
Believe in yourself. I was not confident at the beginning, then I recalled something that one of my former managers said to me. Ricardo (aka Rickey) had all the confidence in the world in me and he said I was the best at what I did. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
If you were to host a dinner party for those who have inspired you, who would be in attendance and what would you serve?
My mentors Mrs. Barroso and Ricardo Salinas, Frieda Kahlo who was a powerful beauty, Joe Marler because he’s super funny and we love rugby. I’d also have David Bowie who is an all time favourite and was never afraid to be himself, as well as the legend that is Sir David Attenborough and referee Nigel Owens. Finally my Mum she always said you can do anything you put your mind to. Sadly she passed away and never had a chance to feel a sense of pride in her wee lassy! I would serve homemade corn tortillas, super spicy salsa, carne asada, frijoles de la olla, sopa de arroz and taquitos (the last two both Ma’s recipes).