Guelaguetza - a Oaxacan restaurant in the heart of Korea Town, Los Angeles, was founded by Fernando Lopez, Sr. in 1994 after his family immigrated from Oaxaca. With the restaurant now headed by Sr.'s daughter, Bricia Lopez - Fernando Jr. has overtaken the families line of traditional Oaxacan Moles - I Love Mole.Spearheading the product line + online store in 2013, Fernando is elevating the Guelaguetza brand.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
The inspiration behind the I Love Mole Product line was simple. First, to make our mole available to anyone around the country who would want to try a taste of Oaxaca in their own home. And second, to open up the flavors of Oaxaca to home cooks and to let them explore new recipes that we’ve never even considered. We believe that the flavors of Oaxaca are to much to not share. And so far, we’ve done well on both fronts. We’ve had customers tell us that mole and chicken have become staples in their homes for important occasions, just as it is used in Oaxaca. And we’ve also had customers send us stories of using the mole in Curries, aioli, dressings, desserts
Tell us about your products.
We sell authentic Oaxacan food products made with authentic Oaxacan ingredients. Our specialty is Mole paste. A concentration of over 20 ingredients packed into a jar from which you could make enough mole for up to 6 people. Or, a collection of Oaxacan flavors from which you could explore and incorporate into your own home cooking to create new and complex flavors in your cooking.
What Does Being A Small-Batch “Craftsman” Mean To You?
Being a small-batch craftsman to me means that you are someone who works with a volume small enough where you could give each and every serving its own time and dedication that will reflect in the flavor and spirit of the food.
What Drew You To Food?
I grew up in a food family. My parents opened up a restaurant when I was 7 years old, and I grew up doing almost every job there is to do in a restaurant form a young age. And in between, I would hang out in many kitchens, whether it be family friends, aunts, and my mothers. In our culture, food is such an important place in the home, that it seems like the most natural thing in the world to me.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
My food inspiration comes from two places. First, my mother, who would do do her best to get us to eat home cooked meals everyday no matter how much she had going on. She has the most amazing touch in the kitchen that I know of, and I feel spoiled for this. The second part of my inspiration comes from my trips to Oaxaca, and exploring as many small towns as I can physically get to.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
Right now we are working on our michelada mix line, which you can find more information on www.ilovemicheladas.com
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
My favorite product is whatever I have at hand.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
I would say life long ingredient obsession is lime. Lime on everything.
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
Last night I went over to my friends house and his mom cooked up aguachile from Guadalajara Jalisco. There is something special about a mother's cooking that just tastes different for some reason. Must be the dash of love that goes into it.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
I would love to get into a time machine and try some of my mole with Benito Juarez. He was an indigenous kid from Oaxaca who grew up to be a lawyer, and because one of Mexico's most successful presidents, enacting, amongst, many things, Mexican civil rights for its indigenous people. I think he would have a great point of view on traditional food.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other Artisans?
Dont undersell your product, don’t underestimate your packaging, and don’t forget that the most important thing is the product itself.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
A local food artisan I greatly admire is not exactly a food artisan, but more food adjacent. My good friend Ellen Bennett from Hedley&Bennett aprons is one of the sweets,
and most hard working people I know. And i’m not sure what’s bigger her heart or her vision. But her commitment to her brand and style definitly inspires me.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
My mothers’s chicken soup.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
My mother’s birthday falls on Christmas. A couple of years ago, my mom said she wanted to travel up north for wine tasting. When we get there, not only was it raining, but everything was closed, because its christmas of course.
We ended up buying champagne and chips at a liquor store and having the time of our lives at a park under the covering of a kiosk. Then we drove to Santa Barbara
and found a random Chinese Food restaurant that none of us can even remember the name of. I think thats my favor restaurant/food experience.
What’s Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
I enjoy making videos. You can follow me on Instagram and check out random stuff I do. @LernandoFopez
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
Right now I’m listening to a lot of Cumbia. My friends have an awesome channel on soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/metralleta-de-oro
Find Guelaguetza's I Love Mole Black Mole in our January Basket!
Follow along with Fernando + Guelaguetza: