After moving to Los Angeles, Adderlin Rosario (AKA “Chef Chico”) noticed a missing element amongst LA cuisine: a lack of Dominican representation. Rosario reminisced upon cooking authentic, family-style recipes alongside his stepmom, which continues to fuel a desire to share his cultural pride with the world. After years of hiding his identity as an immigrant, it was time to embrace his Dominican culture and thus, El Coro Cafe was born! However, as Rosario outlines below, the journey of building a business from the ground up has not always been smooth sailing. Yet, El Coro Cafe’s team continues to beat the odds due to their passion to ignite a pride for Dominican culture throughout LA.
What inspired you to get into foodservice?
“When I was 10 years old, I was introduced to cooking with my stepmom. At 18 years old, after doing family style recipes (like rice and beans or maduros AKA sweet plantains), an opportunity presented itself when my cousin encouraged me to start working at a restaurant with him. This started a long journey of working at restaurants from Bubba Gump Times Square, to catering companies, to fine dining restaurants in Los Angeles. When I moved to LA, I started my own food business called El Coro Cafe, where we promote Dominican food and culture.”
What do you love about your business?
“The thing I love the most about El Coro Cafe is that I get to be my authentic self, embracing my culture and the food that I grew up eating. I love sharing Dominican food with others who haven’t tried and for Dominicans who seek it and haven’t had it for years. It’s giving the people the warmth and comfort of their family food.”
What’s the most interesting thing to happen to your business?
“The most ironic thing that happened was when a brand approached me for a tasting for their launch party, and I introduced an American fine-dining style menu. The irony was they were looking for Dominican flavors and that’s when I realized what I do is so unique and special. This was the beginning of our business. For years, I grew up hiding my identity as an immigrant, to now embracing it fully as my brand, being loud and proud about being Dominican.”
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
“The hardest challenge I’ve dealt with was starting up the business, as it is very high cost. You have to invest a lot before getting any return. As a small business, I didn’t have a lot to work with, and we had to build it from the ground up. Sometimes we’d barely break even when doing pop-ups. A way to overcome this, we persevered, and continue to slowly build our brand awareness, and showing up to pop-ups with no real guarantee of any return. At the end of the day, we love what we do and it was never about the money. This vision is bigger than us. It’s for the culture.”
Which Cambro products help make your business work?
“My first business investment was a Cambro hot box, which allowed me to keep and store my food up to health department standards. One of the challenges I faced at pop-ups is that we don’t have the comfort of an industrial kitchen, ovens for reheating, or stoves to cook on. We relied on Cambro to keep the food hot or cold for a full day of service.”
About El Coro Cafe
Location: Glendale, Calif.
Categories: Cambro Featured Business of the Week