We had the good fortune of connecting with Bill Esparza and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bill, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
It is not necessary to live, but it is necessary to travel. This quote is everything I believe about life, that without travel we are not whole. It’s why I work, and it’s why I’ve done the jobs I’ve done in my life both as a musician and a food writer.
What should our readers know about your business?
I’m an owner of Club Tengo Hambre, a food tour company based in Mexico, and Taqueando Fest, a taco festival here in Los Angeles. Most businesses are based on relationships, but mine are based being a really great customer. I always think of myself as a continuing customer of the street stands, food trucks, and restaurants that participate in my events and that are found on my tours. If you go on a CTH tour it’s a stand I know and love, and you’re going to get the same experience I get when I go there, and the vendors at my events know me as a customer. Many tour operators, and event owners parachute in, or never even patronize the stand–they just want the vendor to vend, which ,makes it easy for them to say no. I learned that I need to maintain my relationships with frequent visits and travel, and getting to know people on a personal level. It’s important for customers to trust me as a writer, and curator to pick great places to eat–I want people to know that if I wrote about it, put it on a tour, or invited the restaurant to an event, that I absolutely approve of their food. Anyone who is my guest will always be well fed and cared for.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
People in the food industry always have visitors coming from out of town, and for me it’s lots of international chefs, as well as friends. Cassia, Bestia, Night & Market, Republique, and Taco Maria are always on my list of places to go. I also send them to places in Koreatown, Thai Town, and to East LA, Boyle Heights, the Mercado Olympic, and around Huntington Park for Mexican cuisines. The Everson Royce Bar is a new hot spot for cocktails and wine, the Angel City Brewery is amazing for craft beer, and we have the best mezcal bar in the United States at Madre’s. I feel that most people can easily find all the tourist spots just fine, but figuring our where to eat and drink throughout the vast urban sprawl of LA county, and the greater metro area is a challenge, but going to Mariscos Jalisco in Boyle Heights for tacos de camarón, eating galbi jjim at Sun Nong Dan, or getting the weekend barbacoa enchilada at Gish Bac will show you the real LA, and get you out of the predictable tourist neighborhoods. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Mi abuela Lupe Esparza, was always there to support my music career. She asked my grandfather to buy my first professional saxophone, and made sure I always had what I needed, My love and curiosity for food came from her kitchen, eating her caldos, huevos rancheros, enchiladas, and tamales. She took me to Aguascalientes when I was 8 or 9 years old to meet family and that trip changed my life. I have so many memories from that trip driving from Stockton, CA to Aguascalientes. From the carnitas they bought on the side of the road, to breakfasts of papaya, pan dulce, eggs, and juice with my aunts, to visiting the natural hot springs baths. I think of her every time I cook Mexican food at home.
Other: TikTok, Clubhouse & Snapchat: @streetgourmetla
All images by Bill Esparza