Peruvian Adrift Succeeds in One Soon Two SF Restaurants

first_img 0% In San Francisco, he initially took a job at the Daily Grill, on Geary Street, by Union Square. He also printed out businesses cards and began cooking for private parties.Then one fateful day in 2011, he walked into 2301 Mission Street because he saw a sign that advertised loans to small businesses. Beyond the big television and the reception desk something caught his eye: a beautiful, empty countertop.“I saw this space and my mind just went boom!” said Caldas. “This is what I want, this is what I’m looking for!”The countertop belonged to Marco Senegal, owner of Senegalese restaurant Bissap Baobab. He contacted Marco, and after a year and a half, Marco gave it to him for free. Tags: immigrants Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0% En Español.With just one counter, some stools and three tables, Cholo Soy is easy to overlook. But the restaurant, on the ground floor of a building on the corner of 19th Street and Mission, is a tiny bit of Peru in the Mission — and, say food critics and foodies, a hidden treasure. Now, as it comes up on its third anniversary, proprietor Yeral Caldas is making plans to take his two famous ceviches–plus two new ones–to a second Mission locale.Originally from Chimbote, Peru, Caldas moved to San Francisco in 2005 with plans to reconnect with his daughter. But when he and her mother separated, shortly after his arrival, he found himself alone and adrift in San Francisco. His family in Peru urged him to come back. Instead, Caldas – who is in his late 30’s – decided to throw himself into the two things he’s known since childhood: business and food.Caldas’s parents separated when he was a boy, propelling him into two different worlds: during the school year he lived with his mother, who had her own businesses, and during the summer vacations he lived with his father, who owned restaurants.He hated sitting at home, he said, so he would go with his father to buy meat and work in the restaurant. “That’s why I know meats so well,” he said. Unfortunately, he was unable to secure a loan with the Opportunity Fund, who had previously given him a loan that he had already paid back.“I was infuriated!” said Caldas. Still, he cobbled together money he’d earned from working at the Daily Grill and some loans from friends, and by June 2012 he was ready to go.But there were still a few big decisions to make. First, what to call it? He considered El Chimbote, after his hometown, but eventually he chose “Cholo Soy.”“The word “cholo” is very, very common in Peru,” said Caldas. “It’s a synonym for work, effort, dedication, and honesty. It’s someone who doesn’t give up – that’s a cholo…And I am that, so I gave it that name,” he said.The next big decision to make: when to open? He liked the idea of opening it on the Fourth of July. Then he moved it to the 3rd, his birthday. Finally, he landed on July 28, Peru’s Independence Day.The problem with starting so late that that he would have to pay an entire month’s worth of rent with no income from his new enterprise. So he spent the next few weeks talking up Cholo Soy.“To every person that passed by, I would say, ‘Hey! We’re opening on the 28th! I’m going to serve ceviche!’” he said. He also went to nearby markets to spread the word.In the meantime, Caldas kept his day job. In fact, he left the Daily Grill only a year and a half after Cholo Soy opened.All his hard work over the last few years has apparently paid off. Anna Roth of SF Weekly called his ceviche the best she’s ever had, It has received equally glowing reviews from KQED Food and from Zagat.In fact, Caldas has been so successful that he’s opening a second Peruvian place – called “El Ají” – at 3015 Mission Street, between 26th and Cesar Chavez Streets.He has been working for about six months on El Ají, but he’s saving the opening for a very special date. If you’re in that area and you want some Peruvian food from Caldas, you’ll have to wait until – you guessed it – July 28th. last_img

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