There is another Mexico worth understanding.
Vicente Del Rio is bringing high-end Mexican cuisine to the masses
Vicente Del Rio, 47, is founder and chief executive of Frimex Hospitality Group, which operates eight Mexican eateries, with a ninth on the way. The first Frida Mexican Cuisine launched in Beverly Hills in 2002. There are three other Frida full-service restaurants; another location will open soon in Sherman Oaks. The restaurant company also operates the more casual Frida Tacos in Pasadena, Brentwood and West L.A. A third brand, Taco Libre in Santa Monica, is “quick and affordable,” Del Rio said. Frimex employs about 300 people and has $20 million in annual sales.
The accounting graduate from the Universidad Iberoamericana was working at Arthur Andersen when he was transferred to the Los Angeles office in 1998. The Mexico City native dreamed of eating his way through town, in a way that would make it feel like home, but every restaurant came up short. “When you can’t find the food you grew up with, you have the feeling that you’re missing a big part of your life,” Del Rio said.
A good mole
Among the things he found lacking was one of his favorites, mole poblano, a complex sauce that can include as many as 20 ingredients, including chocolate. “It’s very traditional, a rich sauce served with chicken, rice and beans and handmade tortillas.” The Los Angeles version just wasn’t the same as the one he remembered. “I didn't try to invent anything,” Del Rio said. “I was just creating the same dishes you would find in a good restaurant in Mexico City.”
A cuisine dream
Del Rio ran a small taqueria while he was a student, and he found cooking role models in his mother and grandmother. After the 2001 terror attacks, he heard from a restaurateur with an excellent Beverly Hills location but no customers. “It was a Middle Eastern restaurant,” Del Rio said. “So, this guy was, like, ‘No one wants to come. I’ll sell it to you.’” Del Rio named his restaurant after Frida Kahlo, the famed Mexican painter and social activist, who also happened to be an excellent cook.