Here’s how this works. You get an email from the editor here at LA Taco asking if you want to go to a marketing thing called the “Del Real Test Kitchen Event.” You skim the email, which is an invitation to a food event where this company, Del Real Foods, is showing off some new recipes. Perhaps you don’t fully process that this isn’t Del Taco. You definitely don’t realize that the event is 90 minutes outside of Los Angeles.
That’s how I wound up in an industrial park in Mira Loma, CA, at the Del Real Foods plant, on a Wednesday afternoon.
Anyone a fan of Breaking Bad? Because this place has all your anonymous desert chicken processing needs down.
So, the first thing I figured out is that Del Real Foods has nothing to do with Del Taco. Is it racist that I assumed that they were? Yes. Turns out Del Real Foods are the people that make prepared Mexican food that you get at places like CostCo. If you’ve ever gotten 4lbs of pre-cooked carnitas or a couple dozen tamales in a huge bag, these are probably those dudes.
The second thing I realized as I sat in the office park waiting room as that, holy shit, all these middle aged white people sitting here with me were the other “bloggers” and that they were also here for this event. These were my fuckin’ crew.
Dope. Look, obviously, we should be past the dumb stereotype of The Blogger. It’s 2016, and obviously anyone with a computer and an some kind of opinion can write down whatever shit they want. So why was I expecting a room full of hipster food people at this thing? Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.
We were led through the halls of the building to the “Del Real Test Kitchen,” a kind of hybrid of an industrial kitchen and a strip mall Mexican restaurant, where they sat us down at a table for a short presentation and lunch.
While we’re waiting for the presentation to begin, I’m listening to the small talk between the other bloggers, and it’s clear that these people run in a circuit. Evidently everyone knew each other from other, similar events, including “the last one of these at the hacienda.” One guy knew a ton about the CostCo supply chain. One husband and wife team got into the game because their son was “fascinated with grocery stores.” There was a long conversation about where to get the “best carrot cake in Temecula.” This was a room full of people who know way too much about how food gets made, distributed, marketed and then brought to kitchen tables across the land. And me, a dude who, just hours ago, had had a vague notion that he’d get to try a new Del Taco item and wouldn’t that be cool.
The reason were’d been brought out to Del Real Foods was to try a new product: their Pollo Asado Bowl, a bowl of chicken and rice that you microwave. Let me just say right here that, as someone wholly unqualified to talk about this, the food is great. It’s chicken, it’s rice, everything is great. It even uses dark-meat chicken, which is hugely superior to white meat (sorry, all white people).
So, as far as this type of event goes, as a complete outsider, you learn a couple things.
First: even though you’re clearly a fraud, the very nice food blogger people will try to include you in their conversations, even though the answers to “how many kids do you have?”, “how many restaurants or grocery stores do you own?”, and “how much do you know about the distribution of CostCo type retail outlets in the Southwest United States?” are all zero.
Second: there’s an uncomfortable amount of food. When a food company is trying to impress people, the thing they for sure can do is wow you with volume. And when you have no experience doing this, there’s real pressure to literally eat everything in front of you, because you’re sort of pretending to be an actual person who knows what they’re talking about, and, I guess, you don’t want to disappoint the marketing people at this food company?
Anyway, the main thing is, besides the fact that you should read through all your emails very closely, is that there’s no scene so weird or esoteric that there aren’t a bunch of people who are really, really into it. And you know what, just cause you’re some asshole from LA, that definitely doesn’t make you better than them.
Ed Calderón—known as 'Ed's Manifesto'—has survived attempted 'hits' on him, witnessed kidnappings, the torture techniques of criminals, the execution of snitches, and even rescued a woman who was held captive by pirates for ten years. Still, he says Tijuana is safe to visit—it's just a matter of doing your research and having common sense.
TIJUANA WEEK is our attempt at fortifying the taco-laced bridge between Los Ángeles (the best in the country) and Tijuana (the best in Mexico). All of this week’s following stories were written by USC Annenberg’s students while in Tijuana.
At least five food trucks were robbed within a weeks span, according to Los Angeles police. During one robbery, a food truck employee was allegedly pistol whipped. Police say that the alleged robberies might be connected.
LAFC came close to winning it in 2020. A victory would have made them just the fourth Major League Soccer team to win the title, an honor shared by DC United (1998), LA Galaxy (2000), and Seattle Sounders (2022). LAFC fans were left wondering if the third time would be the charm…