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Teddy’s Not Dead: How Teddy’s Red Tacos Is Fighting to Get His Birria Empire Back

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]t its Instagram peak, Teddy's Red Tacos had 100,000 followers—a testament to the popularity and to nearly two years of hard work for Teddy Vasquez's fledgling birria empire. It even had the coveted blue checkmark with which Instagram anoints official IG elite status.

[UPDATE: Since this story was published, someone at Facebook reached out to L.A. Taco and we connected them with Teddy. They were able to get his original account back.]

"Instagram, for a restaurant, is everything," Vasquez told L.A. Taco. "It's like marketing, how you communicate with your customers, and basically proof that you exist."

A few weeks ago, Vasquez got a private Whatsapp message with a link. He clicked and within seconds his Instagram account was stolen, then gone, then resurrected under new control, then gone again. The whole thing – including the struggle to get it back – has become a microcosm for the short and meteoric ride Vasquez has had as he navigates the wild roads of trendy restaurant stardom.

'Greedy and unethical people see that and try to take advantage of that.'

That ride has included struggling outside a nightclub where he was offered drugs for tacos, a Super Bowl ad, a dramatized movie of his life, the loss of his first brick and mortar to "a shady" former partner, the Instagram quagmire, and soon his third location opening as a taco truck in Echo Park.

On Thursday, everything seemed to boil over when Teddy found himself catering an event where many people asked him why the quality of his Pico Rivera location was so lacking. "And I'm like, 'That's because it's not an official Teddy's Red Tacos!'" Vasquez exclaimed to L.A. Taco during a telephone interview.

The Pico Rivera location was the aforementioned first brick and mortar that Teddy has disavowed and is currently pursuing legal action against. "The lawyers are telling me that the process can take a while," Teddy said. He sounded exasperated with everything. He was even worried about saying too much regarding the Echo Park location before it opens in a few weeks.

"I've been working in good faith and I consider myself a hard worker in order to provide a better future for my family," he explained. "Unfortunately greedy and unethical people see that and try to take advantage of that."

It's not paranoia. Teddy has receipts, screenshots of DMs from fans upset that someone is besmirching his good name. And many see it as no coincidence that his @teddysredtacos account was hacked while an almost identical account with the O replaced by a zero that belongs to the Pico spot is climbing toward 5,000 followers.

RELATED: Teddy's Red Tacos in Pico Rivera is No Longer an Official Teddy's Branch

The Road to 100K Followers

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]hat path to 100,000 followers started in earnest with his first taco truck on the defunct train tracks that run along Slauson and Central. An almost instantaneous level of street fame and social media buzz lead him to an opportunity to partner with a recently failed Pico Rivera restaurant that Teddy agreed to rebrand as his first brick and mortar, where he is now in a legal battle to undo the partnership.

Vasquez is careful not to say too much about the ongoing dispute only that, "I want to make it clear that I’m no longer part in any way of that place and that the only official locations are the original in Los Angeles, Venice, and soon Echo Park.”

But sources familiar with the events surrounding the Pico Rivera location told L.A. Taco on the condition of anonymity that there used to be a failed restaurant at that same location by "a shady" restaurateur who had a reputation of hiring photographers and not paying them for their services.

When the restaurant failed, Teddy's was on the rise and so the owner contacted Teddy to see if a deal could be made. At that point, Teddy's Red Tacos was a little over six months old but already becoming an Instagram sensation thanks to his now famous Deluxe Plate and the love of celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Patty Rodriguez. He had 18,000 Instagram followers around this point.

According to a source, the restaurant owner was smart enough to know Teddy's brand would bring people to the Pico Rivera location. That location reopened as a Teddy's Red Tacos last September.

In March, when Teddy's Instagram had skyrocketed well past 50,000 followers, Teddy Vasquez disavowed it publicly on his Instagram and told L.A. Taco that it was a quality issue, primarily.

L.A. Taco has reached out to the Pico Rivera location for comment. There's been no response so far, but we'd like to note that their Instagram account had blocked the @lataco Instagram account before we reached out for this story. Coincidently, the hacked Teddy’s Red Tacos account also blocked L.A. Taco before it disappeared

Getting Phished

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he failure of his first brick and mortar was a hard one, recalled Vasquez, but he rolled on, appearing on several TV shows on both Spanish and English TV stations. He was even featured on a Super Bowl commercial and on a Lifetime-style docudrama about his life called Crónicas: Los tacos del fútbol on Univision. He became "verified" on Instagram and in July he crossed 100,ooo followers.

"Then it all went away," Vasquez recalled. "It hurt my business because people thought I was closed."

Teddy got a private message through the messaging app Whatsapp that uses your cell phone number as the contact info. So it isn't random or open to the public like an Instagram DM or a Tweet. The message said his Instagram was about to be deleted for violating IG's terms of service. Naturally, Vasquez clicked on it and it took him to what appeared to be Instagram. It asked for a password, which he provided. And then he was locked out. The common practice is referred to as phishing.

"I went on YouTube and researched how to get it back and went through all the steps Instagram asks you to do," Teddy recalled. Instagram requires users that have suffered a phishing scam to send a photo of themselves holding an official government ID. Vasquez did that and waited.

After almost a month, he gave up waiting. "I tried reaching someone at Instagram or Facebook but there's no way," he said. "So I started over with a new account." That account is at 3,000 followers and counting.

Teddy knows he has a long road to getting back to 100,000 but he is his ever-positive self. "Attitude of gratitude, that's me. I'm just focusing on the next great thing we are doing."

He said he is more concerned with being able to communicate with his loyal customers and to get the word out that the Pico Rivera location isn't a real Teddy's Red Tacos. "People should know the truth," he explained. "They should know what they are getting. And if you're a restaurant owner or a chef or even an Instagramer, you should make your own reputation not try and steal someone else's."

RELATED: Birria in The Trunk ~ The Improbable Rise of Teddy’s Red Tacos

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