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On the Line: Karla Vasquez of Chelas Mexican Grill, Part Two

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Photo by Josue Rivas

Happy hour is music to our ears, and Chelas offers one on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: $2 drafts, Pacifico and XX Amber, $2 chips and salsa, $2 beef and chicken taquitos, as well as crispy tacos. As Karla likes to say, "Don't have a beer; have a Chela!" The lunch crowd starts trickling in as we tackle the second part of our interview.

Read our interview with Karla Vasquez of Chelas Mexican Grill, Part One.
And now, on to Part Two . . .



Do you have any skills that are non-food-related?
I would have to say decorating, drawing, painting and a bit of photography. I just love art--I even married one.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
To speak up if I have an opinion. Because if I wait to speak later, it won't count.

When you're not in the kitchen, what are you doing?
Spending time with my three boys. Going on hikes as a family. Working out, reading a good book and constantly learning about the restaurant industry by researching as much as possible.

Tell us about Roselia.
She can definitely hold up the name "the Kitchen Diva." She was, first of all, a great mother. The best mother-in-law anyone could wish for. I was very lucky. She was always in the kitchen, looking great and cooking in heels! She was a true scientist in her kitchen. She did not know how to follow a recipe. She only cooked by sight and taste, and her food was 100 percent consistent.

She was the first to teach me how to cook Mexican. I would always call her to walk me through Art's favorite dishes. The first time I tried making our roja salsa, I made a dark, burnt salsa that tasted so bitter. Art ate it, just trying to be nice. Quickly, I learned that the chiles just needed to be slightly toasted, or they would turn bitter.

Last song playing on your radio:
"Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small city called Bell Gardens.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Kit Kats! They bring me great memories! I ate them almost every day.

How did you and Art meet?
We met when I was 12, in 1992. We liked each other instantly, but to this very day, neither of us admits it. We were middle-school sweethearts. We met through family members. Six years later, in 1998, we got married. We have known each other for 20 years. We will celebrate our 15th year in October. It feels like it was just yesterday. We are very close, so close that we can now read each other's minds. His energy is my energy. If he's down, I'm down. We are one.

Are you superstitious?
I don't believe in superstition, but I definitely always live by "treat others the way you want to be treated," "what goes around comes around," and "today for you, tomorrow for me." You never know where life will take us.

What were you up to five years ago?
I only had two children, and I was starting up my own interior-design business. I was decorating homes for builders and homeowners.

Last book you read or last movie watched; how was it?
Last book: The Spark, Cirque Du Soleil by John U. Bacon (and I didn't read it just because of his last name). Last movie was Wreck-It Ralph on DVD. Fun movie and very inspiring book! Would read it again and again. I definitely want my boys to read it when they are in that reading level.

Last thing you searched for online:
Custom-printed shopping bags for the restaurant and compression running socks.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I would have continued with my interior-design business for residential and commercial clients. The business has been dormant for three years now. Not sure where Chelas will take me from here. It will be its two-year anniversary this month, and even though it fell in my lap, I consider it as though my life took a detour. I've learned to embrace it, and it's definitely taught me a lot. I consider Chelas my "baby girl." I'm very overprotective, and I want her to grow up to be a success!


Chelas Mexican Grill is located at 29975 Alicia Pkwy., Ste. 10, Laguna Niguel, (949) 542-4606; www.chelasmexicangrill.com.


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