Comedian and actor George Lopez is also a food entrepreneur with a small chain of fast-casual restaurants (Chingon Kitchen) and a craft-beer brand (Ta Loco Cerveza). He recently made a line of packaged Chingon Kitchen Carne Asada and Pollo Asada marinated meats—along with a selection of his signature beers—available at Food 4 Less stores in his native Southern California.
Jon Springer: Welcome to the Breakroom, George. What was behind the decision to expand your restaurant brands into the grocery space?
George Lopez: With the COVID-19 pandemic going on and my restaurants being shut down, we wanted to make Chingon Kitchen marinated Carne Asada and Pollo Asado and my Ta Loco Cervezas available for people to enjoy safely at home. The team got to working on the recipes and canning the beer. It was great to be able to keep some of our staff employed during this difficult time. The Carne Asada and Pollo Asado is what we use in the restaurants, so you get all of the same flavors. I enjoy the meat just wrapped in a tortilla, you don’t need much with it because it’s so flavorful on its own.
Why is Food 4 Less the right partner to launch this line at retail?
Food 4 Less is the store I grew up going to. I would go with my grandmother weekly. When we decided to expand into grocery stores, I wanted Food 4 Less to be our first partner. They are everywhere and very accessible to everyone.
Your line of beers are distinguished in part by unique package designs. Can you tell me about that?
I took as much care in designing the can artwork using brilliant Chicano art, as I did in crafting the beer. The cans are too good looking to put in a paper bag! The cans feature artwork by San Diego-based street artist DyseOne and are sold in four-packs of tallboy cans and include Naranja Crema, an orange cream ale; Paloma, a West Coast grapefruit IPA; Li'l Mexi, a Mexican-style lager; and Agria y Fresca, a hibiscus sour ale. … The beers were standouts at the 2020 Brewski Awards, an international craft beer competition. Lil Mexi and Paloma IPA both took home a gold medal, while Naranja Crema won a silver and the Agria sour won the bronze. If you want the beer tasting experience, you can visit George Lopez Brewing Co. based at The Brews Hall in Torrance, Calif. We have two large outdoor patios to enjoy there, and you can also try Chingon Kitchen while you’re there.
What major challenges did you encounter in replicating restaurant food for home cooks?
We always want to be authentic and it goes back to my grandmother’s cooking. From there, we work with the best professionals to deliver a quality product at a competitive price. There is a lot of tasting and reformulating until we get it just right … not to mention the best packaging in the meat department. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for customers to enjoy these special flavors at home, so our meats come seasoned and marinated. All you do is take it out of the packaging and it is ready to go on your grill or stovetop. It takes just about 10-15 minutes to cook and the aromas are incredible. While it is cooking you can prep your sides and once you take it off the grill it’s ready to go. The whole family will enjoy these flavors.
You’ve cited your grandmother as a major inspiration for your comedy, and now also for your food. What were her specialties in the kitchen?
Spanish rice, pollo and carne asada. … She used a lot of fresh herbs and citrus in her cooking. My products replicate a lot of what she used at home.
My grandmother was my muse—she was an incredible cook who always got it right. She achieved perfection in the kitchen and made it look effortless.
What would be your message to folks in the dining and entertainment industries whose businesses have suffered in the COVID era?
I always relate to the foodservice worker behind the counter and in the kitchen. We will be here for you when you come back, and we appreciate all you do … also to the front-line workers who are butchers and grocery workers. Thank you for all you do.
What’s your go-to breakfast? Apple turnover and coffee.
Three favorite LA Dodgers of all time? Fernando Valenzuela, Willie Davis and Sandy Koufax.
Favorite golf course? Carnoustie, Scotland.
One comic, past or present, you’d like to have a meal with? Freddie Prinze.
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