Monday, August 5, 2013

Meet the Chef/Owner: Marguel Polania . Arepa and Salsa

I am looking forward to introducing everyone to a great restuarant as well as a great family this month. This restaurant epitomizes what I want to do with this dinner the mom and pop restuarants out there that are putting out amazing food. The Polania family has created a (hopefully not too much longer) hidden gem here in Memphis. Although I haven't tried the food, I only hear amazing things about it. Multiple people have reached out to me about this place, complimenting both food and family. They must be doing something right over there on Madison.

I often get to see the best and the worst of people when setting up these gatherings. Not only has the Polania family been extremely gracious, they have been a lot of fun through this process. Although I have two left feet, I am looking to heading out to their place on a Friday night and try learning the Salsa!  Without further ado, I present to you the Polania family!
What is your cooking or educational background?
I come from a family where the food is the centerpiece of any family event. In my grandmother's house, who was an excellent cook, the gatherings always ended up in the kitchen in spite of having a house with large terrace, a large living room or dining room. The process of cooking was part of the enjoyment.

What/who are your culinary or gastronomical influences?
Although our food is authentic Venezuelan, I recognize that I have some influence of the Spanish tastes inherited from my maternal grandmother who knew how to combine both styles to achieve excellent dishes.

Are you from Memphis or the area? If not, how did you get here?

I am from Venezuela and my husband is from Colombia, but Memphis was the city that united us and where we started our family.

Tell us the story of how you decided to open Arepa and Salsa.
I think that is an idea that life gave us. Because when we had a meeting/party with friends or work colleagues, they always asked us for the same thing; "please bring Arepas and Diego, “do not forget the Salsa music." We saw how they enjoyed the arepas and Salsa music. One day we said, "Why not carry this happiness to a greater number of people? ... Therefore, we embarked on this beautiful adventure.

 Who is involved in the restaurant? Family? Friends?
100% Family owned. Since the remodeling of the restaurant, the participation of brothers and nephews, was vital. Each one of them has given us a helping hand to better the restaurant. My husband created the ambience and theme that gives the restaurant a warm and inviting atmosphere. My mom by defining the menu in the kitchen, the nephews help in the construction and artistic touches. My brother-in-law is our technical support guy, without forgetting those friends that are really part of our family helping us with different details.

What is the best thing about running your own restaurant/kitchen?
We enjoy many things from having our own business such as:
  • To arrive each morning to the restaurant and the challenge of making sure that each customer is satisfied and leaving with a smile because they love our food.
  • When we see that a customer is enjoying his/her meal that is the result of the dedication of our team.
  • See that our dream grows every day.
What is your favorite thing to eat on the menu?
This is one of the most difficult questions that customers ask us everyday day, because everything included on the menu are our favorite recipes that we enjoyed as a family and we love all of them. It was truly difficult to select the dishes to include in the menu.

What is your favorite thing to make on the menu?

The “Arepa de pernil”, from the moment of selecting the meat, marinating it, cooking, filling the arepa, and presenting it to the customer. I enjoy the whole process.

What special events do you have throughout the week? On the menu?

We have complimentary Salsa dancing classes every Friday night at 8:30 pm for our customers.

Tell us something that most people wouldn't know about you…non-restaurant related?
According to Isabella Polania, I am the best mom ever.

Fact or fiction: I hear you are a great dancer.
I do not know if I am a great dancer, but for me Salsa is a sort of communion of love that involves happiness and enjoyment. Through it I met my husband and we fell in love with each other. I love to dance Salsa.

Anything else you want to say about your business that I haven't asked?
We conceived this idea a few years ago but opened our doors in September 2012. In these 10 months we have received a great acceptance from the Memphis community and I feel so blessed and grateful to get their support and am committed every day to keep exceeding our customer’s expectations.