The Skinny on El Gordo’s Success Can Be Summed Up in One Word: Family

September 12, 2017

 

One of the benefits of being a food/beverage photographer is always meeting people passionate about their food and culture.  I’m third generation American on my mom’s side and fifth generation on my father’s side. At this point in my life, it’s difficult to even think about the experience of coming to this country and starting from scratch as immigrant.  

 

Meet Lizeth Morales.  I met Lizeth and her family from El Gordo Restaurant at their Grand Opening ribbon cutting event.  I was so impressed with her restaurant and her family that I had to interview them to find out the key to their success.

 

 

Bvster:

 

Can you tell me something about your background, where did you go to school and where did you grow up?   

 

Lizeth Morales (El Gordo Restaurant):

 

I was born in Lima Peru.  I came to the United States along with my family when I was six years old.  I grew up in Patterson, NJ then eventually we settled into the Garfield area.  I went to high school in Garfield and I graduated from William Paterson University in 2005.

 

Bvster:

 

Who was your biggest influence growing up?

 

Lizeth Morales (El Gordo Restaurant):

 

Definitely my mother, she's a very hardworking woman. She is the kind of woman who puts her hands on all aspects of the business.  She taught me that if you're the owner you have to do everything, wash dishes or be the server.  That's the only way to be successful in your business if you're 100% involved.  I was very proud of my mom as a single parent and as a motivated entrepreneur.

 

 

 

Bvster:

 

Did you always want to work in the family business?

 

Lizeth Morales (El Gordo Restaurant):

 

My mom opened the first El Gordo location in the summer of 1996 when I was 13 or 14 years old. All throughout my high school and college years I helped out.  That was very important for my mom.  Together we ran the day to day operations of the restaurant.  I think growing up you just see all the hard work involved and you think I don't know if I want to do this.  You don't see the big picture of how you can grow the business, what it actually means to be an entrepreneur, and what it means to be responsible for all aspects of the business.  My mom showed me how to be an entrepreneur with just few recipes and a desire to build a legacy for me and my sisters. 

 

Bvster:

 

Who plans the menu?

 

Lizeth Morales (El Gordo Restaurant):

 

That's really between me and my mom.  Most of our menu is traditional Peruvian cuisine.  We make a lot of our food fresh to order.  We do have a few stews that we make in the morning.  I'm always looking for inspirations on Pinterest for modern Peruvian dishes.  Then I'll sit down with my Mom because you know she has the food experience and we just go from there.

 

Bvster:

 

here did the name El Gordo come from?

 

Lizeth Morales (El Gordo Restaurant):

 

here's a restaurant in Peru called El Gordo that my mom and her family used to always go to when they were younger.  Our family comes from a poor background so it was a really nice restaurant.  My parents would go there for special occasions and it also had a dance floor.  So mom picked our restaurant name from that one.

 

Bvster:

 

What was the biggest challenge you had opening a restaurant in Jersey City?  

 

Lizeth Morales (El Gordo Restaurant):

 

The biggest challenge for me was starting with an empty location and building a restaurant. Designing a new kitchen, dealing with permits, and holding contractors accountable for a certain time frame.  That was really a great learning experience. I organized all my notes into a booklet so when we need to build out another location I will be ready. 

 

 

 

Bvster:

 

How do you use social media to promote your brand?

 

Lizeth Morales (El Gordo Restaurant):

 

With the start of our new location, I wanted to really have everyone see our journey from beginning to end of the construction phase.  I wanted people to get to know me and my family and see all the hard work that we put into our business.  We post all the time to our social media channels; our goal is to be interactive with our customers.  

 

Bvster:

 

What do you love about Jersey City?  

 

Lizeth Morales (El Gordo Restaurant):

 

I love how diverse Jersey City is and someday I want to move here.  I enjoy meeting new people from different backgrounds and different cultures.  To me Jersey City is a big city but it still has a real close community feel to it.  During our construction of the restaurant, people would stop in, want to know when we would be opening, and welcome us to the neighborhood.  They would comment that it's beginning to look nice inside; we can’t wait to eat here and we are going to tell our neighbors and friends.   It was a great feeling to have everyone excited about our opening.  We love being a part of the Heights. 

 

 

 

 

El Gordo

Address: 291 Central Ave, Jersey City

Phone: 201-706-3425

 

 

Want to find more hidden gem restaurants in Jersey City Heights like El Gordo? Check out our previous post where we sit down the with exotic meat restaurant and food truck, Tyrone Green of Dark Side of the Moo. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jersey City NJ

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