How to go from Taco Tour to Toronto’s hottest pop-up
It all started with a “Taco Tour” – a trip around Toronto to the city’s most popular Mexican restaurants. (Tough day at work, right?!)
The team responsible for Old El Paso in Canada had talked about introducing a new line of premium products, but they weren’t quite sure where to start.
Would the idea of “upscale Mexican food” even be of interest?
Turns out, the city’s Mexican and fusion restaurants offered a vibrant banquet of new and exciting flavors, textures and ingredients. Mexican food is no longer just ground beef in a crispy shell.
With inspiration from their delicious tour, the Old El Paso team worked with members of the Research and Development team who took a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico – straight to the source – to learn everything they could about authentic Mexican cuisine.
Armed with new knowledge of smoky spices, slow roasted meats and fresh fish, the R&D team members returned to Canada with ideas for what would become the new menu for the Old El Paso Restaurante premium product line-up. General Mills home economists took the concepts and made them work with 30 minutes or fewer preparation time.
“The inspiration for Restaurante has always been the fabulous dishes that we enjoyed as a team and the experience of Oaxaca,” says Lori Hatcher-Hillier, marketing director, meals at General Mills Canada. “Staying true to that inspiration through the entire journey has resulted in the creation of a new line-up of premium products that deliver on the authentic Mexican experience, taste great and are easy to make.”
After many months of tasting and testing, the team invited the head chef from Grand Electric (the first restaurant on the Taco Tour) to try Old El Paso Restaurante. He was very pleased with the quality and taste of the products and enjoyed the tasting so much that he even offered a few tweaks the team incorporated into the final recipes.
Once the products were perfect, the burning question became how to debut them?
The team created a one-night-only pop-up restaurant called Noche Restaurante to host some of Toronto’s foodies and tastemakers to sample tacos, tequila, dance to live music and be part of a cooking competition.
Not only were these Toronto eaters sipping and snacking, they faced off to cook Restaurante tacos on the spot!
“We wanted to demonstrate that anyone can be a Mexican chef,” says Lori.
Guests savored Baja Fish Tacos, Steak Carne Asada Tacos and Chicken Tinga Tacos with a live music soundtrack provided by Mariachi El Bronx.
The feature menu was curated by Chef Michael Pataran of Wildfire, Rain and Windsor Arms. In addition to the Old El Paso Restaurante tacos, the menu included a guacamole bar and a gourmet churros dessert bar.
The event was so popular that the hashtag #MexicanChef went crazy on Twitter. “The event gained more than 1 million organic social media impressions in just four hours and was trending on Twitter in Toronto,” Lori says. “Guests delighted in the food and how easy it was to prepare. The live, invitation-only event had incredible energy.”
From Taco Tour to Oaxaca to Toronto’s hottest pop-up restaurant – that is how you launch a product, Old El Paso style.
If you’re ready to become a Mexican chef, check out MexicanChef.ca for tips, tricks and delicious fun.
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