A Mexican comes to America and opens a Chinese and Thai restaurant. No, it's not the start of a joke. It's the story of Jose Cruz's life. And yes, there's even a priest involved.
Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Cruz had plans to enter the priesthood. He enrolled in seminary school, which brought him to America. After seminary, he was given a year to decide whether that was the life for him and realized it wasn't when he fell in love with his now wife, Rocio. They now have five children.
But Cruz credits his time at Clergy University for where he is today. "The seminary taught me two things that I've carried with me my whole life: One – discipline. Two: to live every moment like it's my last," he says. "It really helped me succeed and give everything I have to my work and my family. In the seminary, I learned hard work pays off."
Which helps explain Cruz's success. Fourteen years ago, he got his start in the restaurant business as a dishwasher. He worked his way up and became a cook, then a manager and last month, opened his own restaurant — Park City Chinese and Thai.
"I really do feel like I've lived the American dream. I started from scratch," Cruz added.
It's a safe assumption that there were no family recipes that inspired Cruz to open an Asian restaurant. So how did he settle on the cuisine choice?
"Six years ago, I started a restaurant delivery service. I knew a lot of people in the business and wanted to help them get their food into people's homes. Over the last six years, one of the biggest requests I had from customers was Chinese and Thai food, and there weren't a lot of affordable options, especially late at night. There was a need, so Rocio and I decided to open Park City Chinese and Thai to fill that void," he explained.
And while business is booming at his new restaurant, Cruz understands the initial skepticism. "When I went to the city to apply for a business license, they asked if the name of my business was correct," he chuckled at the memory. "They figured I would be cooking burritos and tacos."
But Cruz wasn't swayed by stereotype and stayed committed to Asian fare. He and his wife read a lot of books, took classes and even asked a friend who had worked in Chinese restaurants to taste-test their recipes. After they mastered the Chinese food, they hired a group from Thailand to teach them some of their dishes, especially the curries. And, Cruz says, you can taste the love they put into each dish.
"We prepare everything fresh. We don't even cut the peppers until a meal is ordered. We believe in healthy, delicious food at a good price."
And in case you're wondering, the menus are written in English.
Park City Chinese and Thai