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Meet Our Award-Winning Staff That Your Memberships Directly Support

6:11 PM PDT on July 5, 2022

    Straight up: We are the little TACO that could. 

    For the last five years, L.A. TACO has defied grim journalism trends happening at both the local and national newsroom levels. At a time that saw headline after headline announcing layoffs at newspapers and magazines, L.A. TACO grew its team. Thanks to our loyal members who support us every month, we have been able to painstakingly add four full-time positions (and two almost-full time!), and we are working to keep going. But to do this, we need your help. 

    This post will mark the 10,280th article published on L.A. TACO and it will also formally kick off our 2022 membership drive. The bottom line is that we currently have about two thousand members but in order to keep our stories coming, we need double that. We can do it! ¡Si se puede! We did it before and that is how we've been able to grow. 

    If you’ve been thinking about joining a member, now is the time. You’ll get our signature merch, free tacos, drinks, and more goodies and events we have planned for you all to incentivize you to be down for us. That may or may not include an open invite to our office every week with an open bar to talk tacos, news, and culture. 

    We realize that in our organic growth, we haven’t taken a moment to formally introduce our hardworking journalists who work hard to keep our editorial trompo spinning. 

    Meet L.A. TACO

    Janette Villafana

    I am a staff reporter with L.A. TACO. I joined the trompo in the midst of the pandemic in 2020 and have been here ever since. Before graduating from CSULB Javier Cabral was a guest speaker for one of our NAHJ meetings and when he told all of us in that Zoom meeting to pitch to L.A. TACO, I remember smiling because I said in my head “I’m about to bug this man with pitches.” My first story for the trompo was on a street vendor in Hollywood, which is crazy because I didn’t know then that that would eventually send me into what has become one of my favorite topics to cover: street vending.

    Don Cuco's. Photo from the L.A. TACO archives.
    Don Cuco's. Photo from the L.A. TACO archives.

    Favorite Taco: Damn, straight up I love tacos, so it’s hard to pick just one. It truly depends on what mood I'm in. But I have to say my favorite taco will always be a TJ-style taco. It has everything you could possibly want, a perfect bite, of meat, and guacamole to soothe the spicy salsa. I’ve been lucky enough to report on some TJ-style tacos in the past but I have to say my favorite right now is from Tacos Don Cuco.

    Memo Torres

    Officially, I’m the Director of Partnerships. Unofficially, I do whatever I can to support this talented newsroom. Although generally, I’m known more for my food recs. I do everything from writing, video, building a taco community, and finding sponsors to help support our mission. I’m a west sider, born in Santa Monica while raised in Inglewood and the Culver City area. 

    I’m also a third-generation landscaper with my own small business. I was raised eating at the lunch trucks that served the hard-working Raza throughout the Santa Monica to Beverly Hills areas and my mom’s home Mexican cooking. I am a product of both private and public schools in Los Angeles. I’ve had about 24 different jobs in my life, gaining a wealth of experiences and talents in different fields which I now pull from to help L.A. TACO in whichever way I can. I graduated from UC Berkely, I have two teenagers I’m very proud of, and roots in Zacatecas, Mexico which I still frequent as much as possible. I joined L.A. TACO in March of 2019 because I earnestly believe that this city needs a local publication as this and I contribute as much as I can to help keep it here.

    Favorite Taco: My favorite taco is a burrito, (because burritos are a form of taco, fight me later). It’s from “Los Burritos de Moyahua,” from the area of Zacatecas, Mexico where my family is from. They make their own flour tortillas, smear them with refried beans, and have a selection of about a dozen different delicious guisados they fill them with. Chilorio, machaca, huevos con chorizo, picadillo, puerco en salsa, etc. They have a great salsa roja and house-made cured jalapenos to go with them. I eat these every day when I’m back at my home away from home.

    Samantha Nuñez

    I’m the Director of Marketing and Social Media at L.A. TACO. I started my job here in June of 2020 as an intern and quickly grew within our newsroom on the business side. In addition to my role within our marketing and social media, I manage our sponsorships programs, and produce and execute our events, among countless other responsibilities. I’d like to say I’m our all-in-one business development team. I was raised in The Valley, the San Fernando Valley, where there are some of the best hole-in-the-wall spots. Growing up here, there’s a culture of grinding day in and day out and that’s something that made me feel so at home in the Trompo. 

    Favorite Taco: I believe in peace between all tacos… but the one that never fails me is an order of four EXTRA crispy tripa tacos from Tacos El Vampiro in Sylmar. There’s something about having the soft tortilla juxtaposed by the crunch of the tripas with the cool salsa roja on top. It’s my own version of taco ecstasy.

    Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd in Downtown Los Angeles. (Brian Feinzimer)
    Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd in Downtown Los Angeles. (Brian Feinzimer)

    Lexis-Olivier Ray 

    I’m a Staff Investigative Reporter for L.A. TACO. I started working here full-time in October of 2021 after we successfully signed up enough members to make me the first full-time reporter at L.A. TACO. In addition to writing investigative stories centered on local officials and homelessness, I also write about food and L.A. culture, take photos and videos, help out with socials occasionally and fill in for our Editor-in-Chief, Javier Cabral, when he’s out of the office. I’m known for holding powerful people and institutions accountable and for the impact my reporting has had on the City of Los Angeles.

    El Ruso's Tacos. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
    El Ruso's Tacos. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    Favorite Taco: I have a lot of favorite tacos but always at the top of my list is El Ruso’s tacos de carne asada. Fortunately, they’re biking distance from my house. Plus as an L.A. TACO member, I get 20% off my order. Because I’m allergic to an embarrassingly long list of things including seafood and nuts, my palette is more limited. So good beef is really where it’s at for me (and El Ruso uses prime ribeye). That’s why I’m also a big fan of Tacos Los Cholos in Orange County and of course Sonoratown.

    Hadley Tomicki

    I’m one of TACO’s founders and currently serve as its Deputy Editor. After more than 15 years working as an editor and writing about L.A. restaurants for various other publications and companies, including two James Beard-winning teams at Grub Street, and over an 18-month stint at the L.A. Times, I joined L.A. TACO again full-time last fall to handle all of the copywriting involved in our sponsored content, weekly newsletters, and to curate our daily Headlines column and write features about food and the city. 

    I am inspired daily by the coverage, hustle, and reporting of my colleagues at L.A. TACO, and blown away by the journalists I get to work around, like Lexis-Olivier Ray and Janette Villafana. So many local publications depend on journalists and editors from New York and Northern California and rarely does an L.A. publication see the kind of true local knowledge and widespread pursuits that our local staff has in such abundance. 

    Favorite Taco: Hey, I’m supposed to ask that question! Anyway, I adore slipping costilla slivers from the whole goat birria at El Jalisciense in Boyle Heights into their tortillas in the morning, and recently had my mind blown by the pit-roasted lamb at Barbacoa Los Cuates. But I’m generally hard-pressed to think of anything that doesn’t taste better in a tortilla.

    Javier Cabral 

    I’m the Editor-in-Chief of L.A. TACO. I started my job here on July, 23rd, 2019, and my duties include working with our staff reporters and contributors to make sure our daily street-level news, food, and culture stories reflect the Los Angeles that I grew up and live in; stories that appeal to people who love this city—both the good and the bad. I was raised in the backyard punk shows of East L.A. and the San Gabriel Valley and lived in Highland Park for the last 10 years, before moving to Long Beach this year.

    Favorite Taco: The taco that has a way of living in my head rent-free is forever the taco de camarón from Mariscos Jalisco. I crave it at least once a week and fantasize about finding any excuse to drive out and order myself a plate. I’ve stopped here on the way to meetings and have been late to them because I couldn’t resist the urge to give in that deep crunch of their tacos de camarón. Plus, L.A. TACO members get free taco! My favorite “nighttime taco” is a new spot I’ve found in Long Beach called “Tacos Lionel,” which I will be writing about soon so keep an eye out for it soon. 

    Alex Blazedale 

    I'm the Publisher here at L.A. TACO which means I spend most of my time working on the administrative side of things, such as working with our sponsors, members, and partners to make sure Javier and his team can do their job without interruption. My biggest goal in 2022 is trying to do more community-building activities with our team, our members, and our friends so we can create a vibrant and passionate community of people who care about Los Angeles. 

    Favorite taco: It's almost impossible to choose because in the past 5 years so many great tacos have emerged in L.A., but every time I have friends visiting from out of town, I take them to Mariscos Jalisco. If there's one perfect bite in LA, it's their shrimp taco dorado.

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