Who: Abel Lopez, 37, Oakland
What: He’s a Mexican immigrant turned businessman (and father of six) who started out operating a taco truck in the Fruitvale and now owns a restaurant and successful catering company on the side.
When: He bought his own taco truck in 1999, after working for several years as a dishwasher and cook for a close friend who later passed away. “He [Phil Padilla] was my second father. Wherever he is, I know he’s just behind me, cause he’s like my little angel,” says Lopez of the man who hired and trained him.
Where: El Paisa Taco Truck and the restaurant, El Paisa Taco, are at 2900 International Blvd. The catering business is big at house parties in Orinda and across the East Bay. “Saturdays are crazy for barbecues,” says Lopez, who brings his own grills to the party venues.
Why: Simply said, Lopez loves to cook and make people happy. “When people tell me it’s good, I love to hear that. I love when the little kids — 3, 4 and 5 years old — say ‘thanks – the food is delicious.’ It makes me feel my spirit get up and say ‘Abel, you go for it!’
How: He’s hired five employees for his catering business alone, which has grown entirely by word of mouth (no website). His most popular offering? A taco and burrito bar with fresh off-the-grill carnitas and chicken for about $12 a head ($6 for kids).