From Mathew Harkins. Email him at mharkins[AT]borderstan.com.
Back in 2010, Wesley Tahsir-Rodriguez moved to Washington, DC for a job in health policy. In addition to bringing along the suits and books that many of us carry to DC, Tahsir-Rodriguez brought along his food business, Los Verracos Foods, a caterer and supper club with ambitions for selling products at retail shops around DC.
Tahsir-Rodriguez started Los Verracos in New Jersey not that long before he made his move to DC. He chose pork as the unifying meat and then brought together the flavors of his respective cultures (Puerto Rican and Guyanese for Tahsir-Rodriguez).
A Start at DC Grey Markets
Since then, Los Verracos has slowly grown in popularity while Tahsir-Rodriguez has maintained his day job in HIV/AIDS policy. He has brought Los Verracos to three DC Grey Markets, participated in different events around town and has even brought his culinary creations to a handful of places around the country.
But for all the excitement and praise, Los Verracos has continued to struggle for the funding that will offer stability and growth through marketing, advertising and a push in different kinds of food sales.
A Kiva Zip Loan to Expand
On April 29, Tahsir-Rodriguez listed Los Verracos on Kiva Zip and began fundraising. Just three days later, on May 2, the $5,000 loan had been fully funded. Tahsir-Rodriguez says, “We raised [the loan] in record time. No one has raised it in three days before.” As is required for all loans on Kiva Zip, Los Verracos has a trustee (Union Kitchen) that vouches for their credibility.
One of the major steps Tahsir-Rodriguez is planning to take with this loan is to begin the production and sale of Argentinean alfajores cookies. The idea is to rent commercial kitchen space from Union Kitchen where he will be able to begin large-scale production of these cookies. He will then look to sell them in food trucks, through different online venues and eventually in grocery stores. This will help to spread the Los Verracos name and brand faster and further than simply through unique events.
According to his Kiva Zip page, the rest of the loan is intended to go toward graphic and packaging design.
Like the best of us, Tahsir-Rodriguez says “I’d like this to be a family owned business that can grow and succeed in any economic environment.” It’s a pitch that’s easy to understand and can even make the food taste better.
A few years ago, three friends from different backgrounds (Puerto Rican and Guyanese, Italian and Thai) started a dinner tradition in New Jersey that centered around one unifying dish: pork.
The response from friends and family who attended the supper club eventually led the three friends, Wesley, Ben and Dave, to start a food business with a menu that consists of pork-centric ethnic street foods from their respective cultures.
In 2010, Wesley Tashir-Rodriguez brought that business, Los Verracos, with him when he moved to DC for a job in health policy.
“It was a great opportunity to see if people in DC were interested in our food,” said Tashir-Rodriguez.
Since the move, Los Verracos has participated in three Grey Markets and has sold out at each event. The business has also participated in some private events throughout town.
“We did a Feastly event with our friends at Bakehouse DC who are opening a bakery on 14th Street,” said Tashir-Rodriguez. “We’ve also done the DC MEETmarket in Logan Circle, a few events at the Hillyer Art Space and other small venues and events in Dupont Circle.”
In addition to catering events in DC, Los Verracos has also conducted some events in New York and Hawaii, where Tashir-Rodriguez’s two other business partners now live. However, Tashir-Rodriguez says that Los Verracos is definitely DC-based.
Currently, Tashir-Rodriguez is in the process of securing a food and catering business license and looking for some commercial kitchen space out of which to work.
“We like to slow roast most of our dishes so we need a space that would be able to accommodate that,” said Tashir-Rodriguez.
Los Verracos’ menu may be pork-centric, but Tashir-Rodriguez tells us it has nothing to do with pork being en vogue.
“It just happens to be a very versatile meat that is a staple in the cuisines of our respective cultures,” said Tashir-Rodriguez.
“I remember growing up and dreading the holidays because while my American friends were having turkey for Thanksgiving and a ham for Christmas, we were having pernil, a slow roasted pork shoulder for Thanksgiving and pasteles, ground plantain and yucca turnovers filled with pork. I wanted nothing more than to have some of that dry white turkey meat or that bland ham because I wanted an American version of the holiday. Obviously, over the years I’ve come to appreciate our cuisine and it seems everyone is catching up.”
One thing Los Verracos specializes in is a pig roast (although the business has yet to due one in DC because of the urban setting). Tashir-Rodriguez said that his current customers enjoy pork dishes that are slow roasted for many hours so that the meat is super tender and the flavors are even more developed.
For more information on Los Verracos, follow them on Twitter on @losverracos or visit the Facebook page.