Claudia Perez Vega has traded in her stethoscope to bring some authentic Mexican cuisine to downtown Charlottetown.
Perez Vega, who immigrated to Canada from Mexico in 2004, may be a trained resident care worker and licensed nurse but her true passion has become Mexican food.
So, she decided in January to open what she calls Charlottetown’s first authentic Mexican food restaurant on Queen Street – La Sazon de Mexico, located right next to The Guild.
She came to P.E.I. with her second husband in 2007, learned English at Holland College and then applied for the resident care worker program. Perez Vega was a doctor back in Mexico.
She has worked at Beach Grove Home and at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital where she did mental health work.
Meanwhile, she’s also been serving Mexican dishes at the Charlottetown Farmers Market since 2012. It was a hit.
“People at work asked me to bring food, bring whatever I made at home so I started to bring stuff and then people say ‘well, sell it to me’,’’ Perez Vega said.
So, she went in search of a licence to be able to sell her Mexican dishes out of her home near Ellen’s Creek Plaza in Charlottetown.
“I put a post on Facebook and we opened a (take out) restaurant. People started to show up and I’ve had customers ever since.’’
Her kiosk at the farmers market eventually grew so much in popularity that the wait for food grew longer and longer.
“I’m not a chef (but) people love what I do, people love my food and I think, maybe, I have some charisma to do this.’’
She learned to cook authentic Mexican dishes simply by watching her mother and grandmother back in Mexico. Perez Vega also credits friend Blanca Esparza, who works at the Atlantic Veterinary College, for teaching her a thing or two.
Her menu includes things like chicken enchiladas with green sauce. It’s three tortillas stuffed with roast chicken and covered in green sauce that’s made with tomatillas, peppers, onion, garlic and spices. There’s also sour cream and cheese, served with spicy rice, beans. Or, there’s the steak tacos made with a corn tortilla and strips of beef cooked with peppers and onions topped with salsa, sour cream and fresh lime juice with the same rice and beans.
It should be noted that the restaurant does not use flour.
She decided the time was right to open a restaurant where people could sit and eat. So far, her entire staff consist of Latinos.
“I opened three weeks ago and cannot complain,’’ she said when asked how business is. “I have five-star reviews on Facebook. I want to show what is the real Mexican culture. We’re going to have dances, we’re going to have karaoke.’’
Regardless of how the business fares, she isn’t leaving the farmers market.
“I won’t leave the market. The market is where everything began. Even the tourists know me from that spot. If they go back there and don’t find me they are going to be disappointed.’’
Even though she’s only been open a few weeks, Perez Vega is already thinking about franchising, telling The Guardian that she’s already talking to one interested business person in Moncton.
The restaurant is open seven days a week. Perez Vega has a liquor licence and boasts authentic Mexican tequila among the choices. The restaurant can be reached at 902-892-5750.