VERANO VERDE : A Celebration of East Harlem, hosted by our Junior Board, is just around the corner on June 22nd! (Tickets to Verano Verde are sold out, but you can still learn more and contribute to support LSA programs.)
We’re excited about the amazing line-up of food sponsors contributing tastes of East Harlem to the evening. The main sponsor is El Paso Restaurante Mexicano which will offer an authentic Mexican taco bar and its exotic signature cocktail, a fusion of tequila and tamarind.
Read the inspiring story of Rodrigo Abrajan, chef and partial owner of El Paso, below.
Other delights will be provided by:
Along with the delicious eats, guests will enjoy a silent auction and live Latin jazz by the talented Sebastian Cruz.
Our thanks to the fantastic food sponsors and to all those contributing to make a Verano Verde a success!
About Rodrigo Abrajan, Chef at El Paso Restaurante Mexicano
Located in the heart of El Barrio (Spanish Harlem), El Paso Restaurante is recognized as one of the finest Mexican restaurants in the country. Its menu features classic regional Mexican cuisine prepared with authentic recipes and fresh ingredients, and includes a wide selection of tequila and mezcal. Here is the story of El Paso’s chef, Rodrigo Abrajan, in his own words…
My name is Rodrigo Abrajan and I am part owner and chef at El Paso Restaurante Mexicano. I was born in Puebla State, Mexico, and when I was 11 years old, I use to wait tables at a restaurant there and help the kitchen prep small sandwiches. This was my first introduction into the restaurant world.
I came to New York City in the summer of 1990 at the age of 16 years old. At first I didn’t realize how far away New York City was or that I was going to end up in the biggest and most important city in the world. When I arrived it was hard for me to find a job as an underage, skinny boy from Mexico.
Finally, after two months, I got a job as a dishwasher at Pellegrino’s in Little Italy. When I started there I would always look around and watch the chefs make pasta and ask if I can help. Some cooks didn’t like that I was always watching and asking to help, but others would let me put butter and oil in the pans. I remember one cook asked me if I liked to cook. At that time I didn’t realize cooking would become my passion. I worked at Pellegrino’s until the middle of November.
After Pellegrino’s, I worked with a variety of food vendors and restaurants. For a week I helped another guy selling hot dogs out of a pushcart. From November until the spring of 1991, I worked at a Chinese restaurant where I was a delivery boy and helped with prep. In the spring of 1991, I worked in an Italian kitchen. In the mornings I would help the kitchen prep and at night I was a coffee boy. Working there helped me become familiar with a lot of fresh herbs and ingredients that I didn’t know you could cook with. In Mexico, basil is used as a remedial herb. I had no idea it was such a huge part of Italian cooking. Shortly after, I was given the opportunity to be a cook for a small sandwich shop in Midtown. I never had any formal training or schooling; as I worked my way through the many different restaurants, I would watch the chefs carefully and learn my techniques that way.
In the summer of 1993, my best friend asked me to join him in selling tacos on the street. I put in my two weeks notice at my job and started selling tacos out of a wood cart. We bought the wooden cart for $800 from an old Puerto Rican man who used to sell alcapurrias out of it. We ran that cart on 104th Street and 3rd Avenue. In 1994, we got our stainless steal pushcart. Two years later we opened our first food truck, which we operated from 1996 to the spring of 1999. Then we opened up our first Taqueria on 104th and Lexington Avenue and a second location on 97th Street. When we opened, it was a big change for me because I never worked with a food menu before. Selling tacos on the street didn’t require a menu. I didn’t have anyone to turn to for help, so I would call my mom in Mexico and ask her what ingredients to use for my recipes. This was when I really found out I had a passion for Mexican cuisine. Then I opened El Paso in 2009, and I have been there ever since.
Coming here at a young age and not knowing anybody or having a lot of money, I was able to work my way up through this business. I am very grateful for all of the opportunities that have been given to me since I arrived in this country and I will never forget the people who have helped me learn and succeed.