Hi! Welcome to the Wonderful World of El Gringo Loco Mexican Fusion! I'm Rick Kazdan, CEO and "El Gringo Loco" and my partner's name is Sharon Pelecki, CFO and "La Gringa Loca." I have worked in the Restaurant Industry for the past 27 years. I grew up in the restaurant business pretty much. (Mostly Mexican Restaurants) I got my start in a little French Restaurant in Morton Grove, Illinois named Cafe Pierre. There, I learned how to cook French food at age 13. I then moved on to become the manager of Taco Bell at age 17. I have worked in every facet of the Foodservice Industry over the span of my career, ranging from running restaurants like El Torito, Que Pasa Mexican Cafe and Guadalaharry's for 11 years, to Catering Director of Embassy Suites Hotel, to opening the first Rainforest Cafe in Illinois, to Foodservice Director for Marriott Management Services, to moving into Multi-unit Supervision of hot new concepts and opening lots of new restaurants. I've always had lots of culinary freedom to create recipes and menu items for many different companies. I learned early on that the public loved my cooking and innovative recipes. Quite a while ago, I realized that I had made lots and lots of money for big corporations and that I never received the recognition or financial rewards for my recipes. (Which is pretty common in the corporate world.) So, I had always planned on opening my own restaurant some day. But when and how was the question? I attended college in two different realms briefly, first at Triton College and then I received some special training at The Culinary Institute of America in New York. The foodservice business was in my blood, my Grandfather, Julius Kazdan, the greatest man to ever live, owned his own little Cafe in a factory in Chicago that he ran with my Grandmother for 30 years, I started to like spicy foods as a child because of his Chili, which we affectionately referred to as "Papa's Chili". Boy was that good stuff! I am the only living family member that knows Papa's secret recipe and some day you'll be able to enjoy it under the El Gringo Loco label. Well, I am now fluent in Spanish. I have great friends from all parts of Mexico. I have traveled extensively through my favorite state in Mexico named Guanajuato. Somewhere between Mexico and my Restaurant Career, I was nicknamed "El Gringo Loco", need I say more?
Let's move on
to Sharon shall we? In February of 2003, Sharon and I both decided to
go on Match.com to find our life partner to marry. (Yes, we both must
be geeks.) Needless to say, we've been together ever since! Sharon's
background is the exact opposite of mine. She took the studious route.
Sharon grew up in Orland Park and went to college at Lewis University
where she decided that a Bachelors Degree wasn't enough for her. So,
Sharon went on to get a Double Masters Degree in Marketing and Finance!
Wow! I got my education in the school of hard knocks and she has a double
Masters? Yikes! Sharon grew up in a Polish and German family, pretty
bland food! Because she spent so much time studying and working 3 jobs,
she never learned how to cook. Sharon's favorite recipe to make for
dinner is a box of Tuna Helper! (She's gonna kill me for saying that,
but it's true!) Anyway, after college, Sharon went to work at Household
Finance for a year, then she decided that the Marketing side was more
for her, so she went to work for Comed where she started in Operations
and then moved into Marketing for Comed. Well, after 6 years with Comed,
it was time for Sharon to move on, so she started working for Wellmark
International doing Marketing and Package Design for pet products. Sharon
was with Wellmark for 5 years. When Sharon and I met, Sharon thought
that mild salsa was spicy! She'd start to cough, hoop and holler when
I'd cook something spicy. A few months later, Sharon was eating in authentic
Taquerias with me and asking for side orders of jalapenos! It was then
that we realized that she had La Gringa Loca flowing in her veins. So,
in October of 2003 Sharon and I started thinking.....hmmmm.......what
do you get when you mix a guy with a Culinary and Business Background
with a girl with a Marketing and Finance Background? Answer: You get
"El Gringo Loco Mexican Fusion!" We've worked many many many
hours to put all the pieces together and to bring you what we are today!
We have been very fortunate to have some great friends and colleagues
that were willing to pitch in their talents in order to help us get
started. We are truly blessed.