Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

A wealth of experience in incremental steps leads to new restaurant

Posted on 17 December 2018 by calvin

For Frank Machado, owner and operator of the new Guavas Cuban Café, opening a restaurant is all about passion.

“If I am passionate about the food, I think everything else will work itself out,” he said in a recent interview at his restaurant at 5607 Chicago Ave. S.
Machado, who is Venezuelan and grew up in Miami, said he has had a lot of experience both cooking and eating Cuban American food.

“Some of my first restaurant jobs were in Cuban restaurants,” Machado said. “There is something about the spices in Venezuelan cuisine that is very similar to Cuban, so it is very natural for me to like this food.”

Photo right: Frank Machado is practical and philosophical about his new Guavas Cuban Café restaurant, 5607 Chicago Ave. S. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Machado said he has eaten a lot of good and bad Cuban food, so he feels he has reached a good point of view about this cuisine.

He worked for a food and wine magazine, Chef’s Club, in Aspen, CO, for two seasons at a job that allowed him to work side by side with state-of-the-art chefs.

“We put out articles every year on the best up and coming chefs, and we got to utilize the chefs featured on those pages,” Machado said. He said there were eight chefs featured each year, and he had the opportunity to work with them.

“Each one had a different vision, so you might have a guy that used fine sea salt in his recipes, another would use kosher salt, and another would salt everything beforehand. There were different cuisines and different kinds of ideas. That was good, because I was in my first management position, and it allowed me to learn a lot.”

After two seasons at Aspen, Machado moved to the Twin Cities to become head chef of Barrio Lowertown. He also ran the kitchen at Red Cow in south Minneapolis. He then opened a company called Twin Cities Paella.

“The company started very small, as a farmer’s market stand,” Machado explained. He said that paella is a dish that has been his nemesis in the kitchen. “It was very difficult for me to make, yet it is a simple one-pot dish you can eat with a spoon.”

Photo left: Pedro Flores works on signage for the cafe. Right now they are easing into the restaurant with limited hours. “I am a very small company, growing from a farmer’s market stand to a small restaurant. We are trying to take our time and do it right,” owner Frank Machado said. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Machado soon mastered the dish and started making it at home, inviting friends and colleagues over to share it.

“Man, this is really good,” one friend told him. “You should do something with this.” Machado said a seed was planted, and he started his market stand which after a year and a half developed into a catering business. “We went to people’s homes, and we hit a good market,” he stated. “We have very busy summers. We do it all, from weddings to corporate gigs, to birthdays and legacy birthdays.”

The catering business took up so much time that Machado had to step away from his duties at the Red Cow and focus on Twin Cities Paella. But he had always had it in his mind that he wanted to open a Cuban restaurant.

“I have lots of fine dining experience and have moved into upscale casual. At the end of the day, what I want with this restaurant is a nice neighborhood spot with food, to show people a little of what I grew up with, and my interpretation of that food.”

There isn’t a large number of Cuban American restaurants in the Twin Cities area currently. Victor’s Cuban Café is the big one, according to Machado. “I think they have done a great job introducing this kind of food,” he added. He also mentioned Brasa and a few other restaurants that include Cuban dishes.

“There are none that focus on Cuban food like Victor’s and us,” he said. “What I bring to the table is that I’m a new Cuban restaurant, not better or worse than Victor’s. I’m the new guy in town, coming in with a lot of energy.”

He said he has recently been to Miami and Havana to research Cuban dishes.

“We’re not a fancy, complicated restaurant,” Machado continued. “You can come in here with kids, sit down and be noisy and enjoy good food.”

Guavas Cubana Café opened its doors quietly in late November, serving brunch Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30am to 2:30pm.

“We are still in the process of getting our beer and wine license,” Machado said. “Once we get that, we are planning to open for dinner service. I envision eventually to be open from 9 to 9 during the week, a little later on weekends.”

He said the gradual expansion of the restaurant is good for him. “I am a very small company, growing from a farmer’s market stand to a small restaurant. We are trying to take our time and do it right.”

The restaurant has a seating capacity for 60, with an additional 40 seats in the summer months on an outside patio. He expects his staff will grow with the restaurant to be about 25.

“I always thought that finances were going to be a problem in opening a restaurant, or things like that,” Machado commented. “I think finding the right people who share my passion for food has been the biggest struggle.”

“And actually realizing that it has happened,” Machado said. “I have wanted to open a restaurant for a while, and it has actually happened.”

Machado still has his catering business that uses a kitchen at 2010 E. Hennepin. “Next year we’ll probably start moving things over here,” he noted.

“Having a farmers market stand first and then going to the restaurant is a process that works because it gives you the kind of baby steps needed to introduce yourself as a person to the community,” Machado said. “I am starting with a small base, compared to some of the bigger restaurants, but I am starting with a base nonetheless. It’s not like starting from scratch, like a new neighborhood restaurant opening and nobody knows who this guy is.”

Machado said he has a nice little base of borderline friends, people who have supported him in the last four years through catering and have invited him into their homes to share their good moments.

“I know once I let them know I have a restaurant, I will receive their support because they know my food is tasty, and they know what I put into it.”

Machado is also optimistic about his new restaurant because he admits he already has a failure under his belt that he believes he has learned from.

“I was in the military for four years, and when I got out I wanted to open my own business. A friend and I opened an ice cream and coffee shop. It wasn’t very well thought out,” he recalled.

“The place broke even very quickly and started to show a little profit,” he said. “But I found myself every day scooping ice cream, and I lost my passion. I didn’t want to go and open the doors.”

Machado said that was seven years ago. “I’m a lot more experienced now. I don’t have a partner, so I don’t have to depend on anybody else. I am a very different person today. I’m going to put it out there and see what happens.”

“For me,” Machado said, “I thought about opening a restaurant a lot because I did have that failure. I am going to try and not make the mistakes I made when I was 21.”

He said that he lives in the neighborhood, not far from the restaurant. “I know this neighborhood, and I know this family concept matches what people want here. I have to build consistency and keep it going.”