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Jose Perez: A Culinary Visionary Transforming American Dining

Published: May 8, 2024
Jose Perez, an unassuming entrepreneur with a passion for flavor, has quietly revolutionized the American culinary landscape. His chain of restaurants, spanning multiple states, offers traditional dishes that transcend cultural boundaries of Tex-Mex cuisine. (Image: Vision Times Staff)

Jose Perez, an unassuming entrepreneur with a passion for flavor, has quietly revolutionized the American culinary landscape. His chain of restaurants, spanning multiple states, offers traditional dishes that transcend cultural boundaries. From Tex-Mex to South American flavors, Perez’s establishments have become beloved community hubs where diverse patrons gather to savor exceptional cuisine.

From El Salvador to the United States: an inspiring journey

Perez’s journey began more than 40 years ago when he left El Salvador and settled in the United States. After a decade of working in the restaurant industry, he took a bold step: opening his first restaurant in 1991. That establishment at Rockville has stood for over three decades, serving as a testament to Perez’s unwavering commitment to quality and community.

“This restaurant has been here for 33 years,” says Perez, referring to his first-ever restaurant that has since remained an essential piece of history in his entrepreneurial journey. Today, Perez manages eight restaurants across Maryland and Delaware. While Rockville remains the heart of his operations, his culinary influence extends to Frederick, Hagerstown, and Rahawas. Nestled in Delaware, the latter reflects Perez’s dedication to reaching beyond state lines.

Perez’s journey began more than 40 years ago ago when he left El Salvador and settled in the United States. (Image: Vision Times Staff)

A culinary empire

Perez’s restaurants are not exclusively for Spanish-speaking patrons. Instead, they cater to the entire community. “We cater to the whole community,” says Perez. “Whoever comes to the city where we are, we promote to them. We have a blend of many ethnic populations that support us.” Whether you’re Asian, Middle Easterner, Latino, or Anglo-American, there’s always a place for you at Perez’s table.

According to the entrepreneur, the secret to the epic success of their restaurant business lies in the meticulous selection of ingredients and the commitment to delivering exceptional flavors. “We put more dedication into choosing the ingredients. You know we try to bring the best. Sometimes, it costs us more, but we don’t want to disappoint our customers when they give us the chance to serve them,” reassures Perez.

Their restaurants’ success can also be attributed partly to their commitment to quality and how they address customer concerns. “We’re very concerned when the customer is not happy, so we have to go back and talk to our supplier about the quality of our food,” Perez added.

Cross-border seasonings: the heart of flavor

While some of Perez’s restaurants offer typical Tex-Mex fare, others delve into the rich culinary traditions of South America.

The common thread? Flavor. Whether it’s the tenderness of a perfectly grilled steak or the freshness of a seafood dish, patrons return for unforgettable taste experiences. When Perez refers to “Tex-Mex,” he’s talking about the fusion of northern Mexican and southern U.S. cuisine. “It’s more like the north of Mexico and south of the U.S., where people eat more flour tortillas instead of corn. But we also have other seasonings for South American dishes,” he says.

Flour tortillas take center-stage here, distinguishing it from traditional Mexican fare made of corn, with the seasonings drawing inspiration from both sides of the border, resulting in a harmonious blend that appeals to a broad audience. Peppers also play a starring role in Perez’s kitchens — from sweet varieties to fiery habaneros — they infuse his dishes with depth and heat. “We have a combination of sweet ones and some other spices,” he says.

“We even use serrano, jalapeno, and habanero to make some sauces.” Perez also added, acknowledging some seasonings are mild, but habanero sauce and habanero pepper are some of the spices known to be “very spicy hot.”

While some claim Mexico as the birthplace of peppers, Perez acknowledges that spicy cuisine transcends borders. “Indians and even Asians eat spicy food. Chinese people, too,” says Perez. He recalls frequenting Chinatown in D.C., where Chinese and other Asian cuisines also embrace bold seasonings.

Asian delights on the menu

For Asian patrons, Perez recommends several standout dishes. “We have some seafood—the sauce is made with white wines, so a little bit of soya or soja soya sauce. It has olive oil and tomato juice, and then we add jalapeno pepper, cilantro and some other vegetables to the mixture. That’s one of the popular dishes that we have, but then we have the carne asada, which is very popular,” Perez explained.

According to Perez, some of the most popular picks for Asian cuisine enthusiasts at their restaurants include: Seafood with White Wine Sauce — a delightful blend of flavors featuring white wine, soy sauce, olive oil, and tomato juice, with Jalapeño peppers and cilantro adding a zesty kick. Carne Asada is yet another delicious pick. This delicacy features a thinly sliced, marinated steak grilled to perfection — a crowd-pleaser enjoyed by customers across cultures.

Fajitas is also another popular pick for Asian food enthusiasts. Whether with shrimp, chicken, or beef, fajitas offer sizzling satisfaction. “Even though some [Asians] already know the ethnic Mexican food, like typical enchiladas or burritos, they also request it because the season is good,” he added.

Mother’s Day recommendations

As Mother’s Day approaches, Perez suggests some options for moms preparing for big-day celebrations. According to Perez, Garlic Salmon — succulent salmon fillets bathed in a garlic-infused sauce and Steak for meat-loving moms await. Whether celebrating a birthday or seeking a memorable meal, expect warm hospitality and exceptional flavors as Perez’s restaurants accommodate everyone, from singles and families to friends and larger group gatherings.

A sweet surprise

And yes, if you’re breastfeeding or celebrating a special occasion, Perez’s team has a sweet surprise. Dessert arrives, and the staff joins in a heartfelt song — a fitting tribute to the man who has transformed dining into an art form.

Jose Perez’s culinary vision, dedication to excellence and inclusivity inspire food lovers nationwide.