Monday, May 20

Flavors of Westwood: Alumni brothers share a taste of home through family business

Brothers Miguel and Jorge Anaya run the Westwood Mexican restaurant Pinches Tacos and work with their brothers Fernando and Javier on the seven locations. (Kristie Hoang/Daily Bruin)

Brothers Miguel and Jorge Anaya run the Westwood Mexican restaurant Pinches Tacos and work with their brothers Fernando and Javier on the seven locations. (Kristie Hoang/Daily Bruin)

Four brothers grew up in Central Mexico eating birote, a loaf of bread smothered with beans, sliced tomatoes, jalapenos and queso fresco, in a brick house with dirt floors.

UCLA alumni Miguel Anaya and Fernando Anaya, along with their brothers Jorge Anaya and Javier Anaya, left behind their childhood home 42 years ago to cross the border from Mexico to America. Childhood meals such as birote later inspired the brothers’ future Los Angeles business, Pinches Tacos, which opened its seventh location on Oct. 19 in Westwood.

Miguel Anaya was 6 years old and Jorge Anaya was 8 days old when their father left for America to make enough money so the rest of the family could join him. After nine months, Miguel, Fernando, Jorge, their sister Bertha and their mother took a taxi to a train station in Guadalajara and waited at the border until 2 a.m. In the middle of the night, the family rushed across the street and through a hole in the fence onto American soil, leaving all their clothes and luggage behind, Miguel Anaya said.

“We literally got here with what we had on our back,” Miguel Anaya said.

The children, their grandma, their parents, their aunt and their uncle all shared a 500-square-foot single apartment in Los Angeles with one bed, Jorge Anaya said. Jorge and Miguel Anaya recycled cans and cardboard to make extra money for the family, and the children shared everything with each other, even a bike. Their selflessness eventually grew into the brothers’ shared business, Fernando Anaya said.

Their father’s job as a head chef at The Ivy in Beverly Hills and their mother’s job as a pastry chef at the Ivy at the Shore on Ocean Avenue introduced the brothers to the restaurant business as busboys when they each turned 14. By the time Miguel Anaya was at Los Angeles High School and considering college, he was making $200 a night as a waiter. Although the money at first deterred him from pursuing a higher education, he said a college counselor encouraged him to apply, and he went on to attend UCLA.

Jorge Anaya also attended UCLA by taking restaurant courses for a year and a half at UCLA extension to master his prowess and previous knowledge of cooking and operations in the restaurant business, he said.

Their family has always had an excellent taste in food, such as the luxury food at The Ivy, including Jorge Anaya’s favorite Cajun-style soft shell crabs and Miguel Anaya’s favorite home-cooked riblets with green and red salsa, onions, garlic and beans from their mother’s pot.

Dinner guests at the Anaya house always remarked on the delicious food, Jorge Anaya said. Their mother served guests beans and tortillas with queso fresco or chicken stews.

“One of the reasons why we did this is because everyone kept telling us, ‘Why don’t you guys open up a restaurant like you eat at home? I would pay for this,‘” Miguel Anaya said.

After working at The Ivy, Miguel Anaya said he and his brothers didn’t want to work for other people and opened their first Pinches Tacos location in 2008 on Sunset Boulevard.

Fernando Anaya, who also works as a corporate pharmaceutical representative, said he and Javier Anaya, the youngest of the four brothers, run two of the Pinches Tacos locations in Las Vegas.

As partners, the four brothers all share the duties and responsibilities of Pinches Tacos, Fernando Anaya said.

The entire menu at Pinches Tacos is made up of their home-cooked meals growing up, Miguel Anaya said. Although they hire chefs, they treat their workers as extended members of their family, Jorge Anaya said.

Graduate law student Charlie Stevens said he first tried the carne asada tacos Saturday and came back three days later to order them again because they were so good.

“We want to make sure the love and nurturing is like you’re coming to our house.” Jorge Anaya said.

Although Pinches Tacos has been visited by celebrities such as Salma Hayek and Bobby Flay, Jorge Anaya said their family-oriented business loves the connection it builds with everyday people.

“We are blessed enough as a family to say we get paid to do what we love,” Miguel Anaya said.

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